Angels drop opener to Blue Jays
Byrd struggles through shortest outing of the season
TORONTO -- The usual nine innings were played. But the game was ultimately decided after just the first frame.Chone Figgins was picked off second base in the top of the first for the Angels. Then, starter Paul Byrd gave up a three-run home run to Toronto first baseman Shea Hillenbrand in the bottom half. Combine those early miscues with a great outing by Toronto's Gustavo Chacin, and the Angels lost, 8-0, to the Blue Jays on Tuesday at the Rogers Centre. "Anytime your team gets down 3-0 right off the get-go, it's not good," said Byrd, who pitched three-plus innings, his shortest start of the season. "I put us in a hole early and then couldn't answer later. It's frustrating for me." The slider that Hillenbrand sent to left field for his 13th homer of the season might not have done the Angels (59-41) in had it not been for the baserunning lapse by Figgins in the opening minutes. Figgins led off the game with a single to right, then moved to second when Chacin walked Darin Erstad. With Vladimir Guerrero at the plate, Figgins was increasing his lead off second when Chacin spun around and caught him off balance. "It certainly was a huge swing as far as our ability to score in that inning," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You've got the middle of your lineup coming up and you've already set the table for them. You're just hoping one of those guys is going to get the hit and you're going to get on the board." Scioscia said that Figgins, who has a team-high 34 stolen bases, was not given the green light to take off for third base. Scioscia did note, though, that Figgins might have been given the go-ahead to run in a similar situation. "[Figgins] was doing what he should do," Scioscia said. "He's trying to read, he's trying to time it, so that if there's a count where he's going to go, he's ready for it. He just happened to get caught on the wrong foot -- good quick throw and well timed." The pickoff's implications became increasingly magnified as the game went on. Chacin (10-5) set down the next nine batters, and he only allowed two more runners to move into scoring position. Scioscia couldn't help but be reminded of one of his former teammates with the Los Angeles Dodgers while Toronto's rookie southpaw was on the mound. "[Chacin] pitched a terrific game. Anytime we had a count in our favor or had a chance to do something, he came up with a great pitch," Scioscia said. "He reminds me a little of a combination of Teddy Higuera and Fernando Valenzuela. There are a lot of intangibles he has on the mound, just from a first glance." What was it about the 24-year-old Venezuelan that reminded Scioscia of Valenzuela, who the Angels skipper played with from 1980-90? "I think a little bit of his arm angle," Scioscia said. "A little bit of his ability to ride that fastball and probably make it a little more than it is. He's able to give it a little more life by riding it up in the zone." Chacin allowed six hits and struck out four as he tied a season high with eight innings pitched. "He was right on tonight. That's probably the best I've seen him in a while," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He was just pounding that strike zone, pitch after pitch. He's capable of that, and it gives him his 10th win. He's having a heck of a rookie year."
|"There are a lot of challenges in that lineup. They've got great team speed, they get on base a lot and they've been scoring a lot of runs."|
-- Angels manager Mike Scioscia,|
on the Blue Jays
Jordan Bastian is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.