TORONTO – The Toronto Blue Jays fell short of a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels before a crucial four-game set against the division-rival Baltimore Orioles this week.
Hunter Renfroe’s two-run homer in the 10th inning lifted the Angels (55-51) to a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays (59-47) on Sunday.
Only the Angels have a better record after the all-star break at 10-5.
The Blue Jays have won nine of 15 since then the midseason classic in Seattle.
“I think we’re in a great spot, not only with our pitching but our hitting, too,” Toronto manager John Schneider said ahead of Monday’s series opener versus the Orioles.
The Blue Jays have plenty to prove against the Orioles.
Toronto has gone a dismal 7-20 against East Division opponents this season and has lost five of six outings against Baltimore.
Tuesday’s trade deadline also looms as general manager Ross Atkins will attempt to strengthen the Blue Jays’ roster.
Hyun-Jin Ryu returns to Toronto’s rotation Tuesday. The 36-year-old lefty is 30 pounds lighter after a 13-month layoff because of Tommy John surgery.
The Blue Jays fell short of a seventh sweep this season Sunday because of Renfroe’s one-out blast down the left-field line off Blue Jays reliever Yimi Garcia (3-4).
The game-winning smash halted the series shutout streak for Toronto’s bullpen at 14 innings.
“You’re trying to put guys in the right spot,” Schneider said. “They just got the big hit.”
Renfroe’s homer was his 17th of the season as the Blue Jays suffered a second loss in their last seven games.
Garcia began the extra inning. Eduardo Escobar bunted ghost runner Mike Moustakas to third before Renfroe delivered his third hit and third RBI of the game.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. began the Blue Jays’ half of the ninth with an RBI single to right.
Matt Champman then walked, but Angels reliever Carlos Estevez (5-1) rebounded to strike out George Springer and Cavan Biggio and get Danny Jansen on a fly to left in front of 41,810 at Rogers Centre.
Although hard-luck righty Jays’ starter Jose Berrios hasn’t won since June 24, he overcame a difficult start against the Angels to finish strong by retiring the final seven batters he faced in his 98-pitch performance.
Berrios struck out six, gave up a run on six hits and a walk.
Toronto’s Santiago Espinal left the bases loaded in the eighth inning with a fielder’s choice grounder to third.
The Angels entered the game having gone 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position in the series’ first two games.
They increased the dry spell to 0-for-21 when they left runners on second and third in the first two innings.
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Although it wasn’t a hit, a sacrifice fly to centre field from Renfroe scored Shohei Ohtani in the third inning.
Ohtani, the Major League leader with 39 homers, reached base safely in three of his five plate appearances with a single and intentional walks in the fourth and ninth innings.
“The plan was to attack him with off-speed stuff,” said Berrios, who coaxed the Angels slugger to fly out to left in the first inning but then yielded a single to left in the third and an intentional walk in the fourth.
The Angels left 35 runners on base in the series and 27 in scoring position.
The Blue Jays tied the game in the fifth when Daulton Varsho smashed a one-out double to right field and scored on Whit Merrifield’s single to left.
Angels starter Tyler Anderson lasted six and one-third innings. He yielded a run on seven hits, a walk and struck out two.
Alejandro Kirk, who batted sixth as the Blue Jays designated hitter in the series finale, went 0-for-3 with three feeble groundouts and an eighth-inning free pass.
He entered the game on a brilliant run, batting .545 (12-for-22) with a double, three homers and six RBI.
Chris Bassitt (10-5) makes his 23rd start for Toronto in Monday’s opener of a four-game home series against the Orioles.
Bassitt lasted only three innings June 13 in Baltimore in an 11-6 loss. The Orioles will start Kyle Gibson (9-6) on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2023.
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