Angels fall further back in playoff chase
The finish line, just nine days away, is almost close enough to touch.
The goal, a playoff berth, is also within reach. But despite all that, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia admits his team’s destiny is no longer in its own hands.
“At this point, right now, we need help,” he said.
They didn't give themselves any Monday in Toronto, when four poor fielding plays allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to escape with a 3-2 win in 10 innings. All three Toronto runs were unearned.
The winning run scored when Torii Hunter, playing as a fifth infielder, backhanded Adam Lind's ground ball toward second base, then threw wildy to the plate, allowing Mike McCoy to scored.
That dropped the Angels five games back of the idle Texas Rangers in the American League West, their largest deficit in the division race since Aug. 19.
They’re four games behind Boston in the wild-card race, pending the outcome of the Red Sox’s night game with Baltimore. And since they have only three games left with Texas and they don’t play the Red Sox at all, neither deficit is one the Angels can make up on their own.
Eric Thames followed with a single to center. Jose Bautista then hit what appeared to be a double-play grounder at third baseman Maicer Izturis, but his throw to second was slightly off the mark and Howie Kendrick couldn't make the turn, leaving runners at the corners with one out.
Lind then followed with his sharply hit ground ball.
That wasted a stellar effort by Angels starter Jerome Williams, who gave up just a pair of unearned runs on six hits through 6 1/3 innings. And it was Williams who made the error that led to the two runs. After making a bare-handed stab of Kelly Johnson’s fourth-inning grounder that looked as if it was headed up the middle, Williams made an off-balance throw to second base that sailed away from Aybar for an error.
Two batters later Toronto had the bases loaded with no outs when Mark Trumbo started a nifty 3-2-3 double play, one of two nice plays he made on the night. But J.C. Arenciba followed this one with a two-run single to give the Blue Jays a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Williams got some more help from his defense an inning later when Hunter made a tremendous throw from the right-field corner to prevent Eric Thames from stretching a single into a double. The assist gave him a career-best 15 in his first full season as a right fielder. And then in the eighth inning, with reliever Bobby Cassevah on the mound, Kendrick and Trumbo made diving stops of hard-hit grounders on consecutive plays, short-circuiting a Toronto rally.
But as good as Williams and the Angels defense was, Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero matched them nearly pitch for pitch. Romero, who has lost only once since mid-July, allowed only one baserunner through the first four innings -- but that runner scored when Hunter led off the second with his 21st homer of the season.
Trumbo accounted for the Angels’ second run –- and second hit -– when he led off the fifth inning with his team-leading 28th homer. An inning later Romero began a streak that saw him retire 10 men in a row before Hunter looped a single to center with two outs in the ninth.
Romero left after that inning, having scattered six hits over nine innings, striking out five and not walking a batter.
Hunter and Vernon Wells were the only Angels to finish with multiple hits, with Wells leading off the 10th inning with a double off the center-field wall only to be left at third when Aybar struck out and pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo grounded weakly to third.
Thames had three hits and Arencibia and Johnson and Thames two apiece for Toronto.
-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Toronto
Photo: Angels right fielder Torii Hunter is congratulated by first baseman Mark Trumbo after hitting a home run in the fourth inning Monday night in Toronto. Credit: Mike Cassese / Reuters