Angels lose a game and some ground in Toronto
The Boston Red Sox, who lead the wild-card race, were idle Thursday. And the Texas Rangers, who lead the American League West, had already lost in Oakland by the time the Angels took the field.
But instead of gaining, the Angels lost twice -- dropping a game to Toronto Blue Jays, 4-3, in 12 innings and a losing half a game in the standings to the Red Sox. As a result they'll begin their final homestand of the season Friday trailing the Red Sox by three games and the Rangers by five with six to play.
That leaves little room for error for a team that looked anything but sharp in a game they had to win Thursday, giving up the tying run on a wild pitch and losing on Edwin Encarnacion's walk-off homer to start the 12th inning.
The homer, Encarnacion's 17th, came off rookie Garrett Richards, who came on to face big league home run leader Jose Bautista with one out in the 11th inning and got him. But he couldn't get Encarnacion an inning later.
That was a pattern for the Angels, who were in and out of trouble all night.
For the second consecutive start right-hander Ervin Santana stumbled through the first inning. But while he found himself trailing 5-0 after an inning in Baltimore his last time out, this time he escaped without damage, loading the bases on a single and two walks, then striking out Kelly Johnson to strand all three runners.
And when Alberto Callaspo homered off Toronto rookie Henderson Alvarez in the second inning, Santana had a 1-0 lead. That lasted until the fifth inning, when a two-out double by Eric Thames and Bautista's run-scoring single tied the score.
When Adam Lind followed with a single of his own, Santana was teetering on the brink again. But Torii Hunter saved him this time, making a nice running catch of Encarnacion's drive to the warning track in right field.
The Angels came roaring back in their next at-bat, needing only two batters to go in front again with Erick Aybar leading off with a single before racing home on Howie Kendrick's triple.
For Aybar the single marked the 34th consecutive game in which he has reached base, the longest active streak in the American League. And when Kendrick came home on a groundout two batters later, the Angels led, 3-1.
That advantage didn't last long either. Thames shaved one run off with his 12th homer of the season to lead off the seventh inning. That gave the rookie nine hits and five runs scored in the four-game series with the Angels.
The homer also knocked Santana out of the game in favor of right-hander Bobby Cassevah, which turned out to be a mistake for the Angels.
Cassevah faced three batters but got only one out -- and that was on an outfield assist from Peter Bourjos, who threw out a runner at second. Cassevah gave up the lead, too, with Bautista walking, moving to third on Mark Trumbo's fielding error and scoring the tying run on a wild pitch.
But the Angels once again wiggled off the tightrope when Hisanori Takahashi came on to get two outs, stranding the go-ahead run at second base. Then with Scott Downs on the mound an inning later, shortstop Mike McCoy drove a two-out pitch deep to left field, but Vernon Wells flagged that one down with a leaping catch up against the gate to the Blue Jays' bullpen. McCoy hit another ball to the same spot in his next at-bat in the 10th but Wells ran that one down too.
-- Kevin Baxter, reporting from Toronto
Photo: Toronto's Kelly Johnson beats the tag of Angels shortstop Erick Aybar to steal second base during the fourth inning of the Angels' 4-3 loss in 12 innings on Thursday. Credit: Luc Leclerc / U.S. Presswire