ANAHEIM, Calif. — Toronto reliever Aaron Loup had not allowed a home run in his first 42 relief appearances this season. Albert Pujols came in needing one more to tie Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews for 21st place on the all-time list.
Guess who won that matchup.
Pujols drove in the tying and go-ahead runs for the Los Angeles Angels in the seventh inning with his 512th career homer, sending the Blue Jays to an 8-7 loss on Wednesday in the finale of the three-game series.
“That’s why he’s in there,” manager John Gibbons said of Loup (2-2). “He’s got to keep it on the ground. That’s why he came in to face (Hank) Conger — to stay away from that home run. But Pujols did his thing. That’s what the big boys do. They’re good hitters.
“I don’t think there’s a better lineup in the major leagues than that team over there.”
The Blue Jays took a 7-6 lead in the sixth on Dioner Navarro’s two-out RBI single against Fernando Salas, making his second appearance off the disabled list after missing 19 games because of inflammation in his shoulder.
But Pujols responded with a drive that hit the top of the centre-field fence beyond the outstretched glove of Colby Rasmus and bounced over. The three-time NL MVP, in the third year of a 10-year, $240-million contract, reached the 20-homer mark for the 13th time in 14 seasons. Last year he had 17 while being limited to 99 games because of a foot injury.
“The curious thing was that they had the righty warmed up, and Albert hit that home run off a lefty. So we were like: ‘Oh, awesome. They’re leaving him in to face Albert,’ and he came up with a huge homer,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “So it was great for us. We have a tenacious team, and the nature of our clubhouse is that we always believe that it’s going to happen.”
Marcus Stroman was charged with five earned runs and eight hits through 4 2-3 innings in his eighth big league start. The 23-year-old right-hander’s teammates staked him to a 6-3 lead with a five-run fourth, but David Freese scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half and Kole Calhoun drove his 10th homer into the lower seats in the right-field corner.
The Blue Jays parlayed three hits, two errors and a bases-loaded wild pitch into their five-run rally. Wilson was charged with six runs — three earned — and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings. He is 3-3 with a 5.70 ERA in 10 starts since May 17, when he threw 127 pitches in a five-hit shutout of Tampa Bay.
The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the second, capitalizing on a two-base fielding error by shortstop Jose Reyes on a routine grounder that went right through the four-time All-Star’s legs. Howie Kendrick and Freese came through with RBI singles, but Stroman minimized the damage by striking out Conger and Calhoun with two men on.
“We’ve lost a lot of one-run games with stupid stuff — not making a routine play or something else,” Gibbons said. “That’s cost us way too many times. It’s been like that all year.”
The Blue Jays got one of the runs back in the third on a bases-loaded walk to Reimold, which followed a two-out intentional pass to Bautista. First base was open because of a video challenge reversal involving a high throw by third baseman Freese that pulled first baseman C.J. Cron off the bag on a grounder by Melky Cabrera.
Umpire Brian Gorman’s original safe call was overturned after replays showed that Cron touched the bag before Cabrera did.
Mike Trout, who was thrown out by Cabrera from left field on Tuesday night as he tried to stretch a double into a triple, tested Cabrera’s arm again in the third inning and was out at home plate after Pujols’ single. Pujols continued to second on the throw and scored on a single by Josh Hamilton, which ended his 0-for-16 drought and gave the Angels a 3-1 lead.
Jason Grilli (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning for his first AL victory since 2009 with the Texas Rangers, striking out cleanup hitter Jose Bautista with two men on to end the seventh. The 12-year veteran right-hander was acquired on June 27 in a trade that sent Ernesto Frieri to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I pitched with him in Texas in 2009, so I’ve known him for a while,” Wilson said. “He’s a very fun, positive, talkative guy, and he adds a personality and character to his statistics. He’s not just some guy who goes out there and throws. He adds a lot to the clubhouse. That’s important, and I think that’s why he’s succeeded since he came over here.”
Joe Smith pitched the ninth for his 12th save.
“We (threw) away a good opportunity today,” Gibbons said. “We had the lead, coughed it up, then took a slim lead. So it was disappointing. But, hey, we left so many guys on base (12), and there comes a time you’ve got to blow open a game.”