ANAHEIM -- The Blue Jays traveled to the West Coast looking to make up some ground in the American League East and take a stranglehold over the first Wild Card spot. The Angels made sure that didn't happen.The Angels played the role of spoiler once again on Sunday afternoon as
ANAHEIM -- The Blue Jays traveled to the West Coast looking to make up some ground in the American League East and take a stranglehold over the first Wild Card spot. The Angels made sure that didn't happen.
The Angels played the role of spoiler once again on Sunday afternoon as right-hander Alex Meyer tossed five scoreless innings and struck out seven in a 4-0 victory that featured a 13-minute delay in the bottom of the third inning as a swarm of bees descended upon the field.
Toronto dropped to one game back of Baltimore for the first Wild Card spot and also fell four games back of the Red Sox in the division, after Boston defeated the Yankees on Sunday night.
• Standings | Wild Card
Angels center fielder Mike Trout doubled, scored two runs -- including one in the fifth inning on a nifty slide to avoid the tag -- and reached base three times in the victory. Albert Pujols also reached base three times by going 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single, a walk and a run scored. Juan Graterol added an RBI grounder and C.J. Cron chipped in with a sacrifice fly.
Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman took the loss and fell to 0-4 in September even though he has not allowed more than three earned runs during any of those outings.
The Blue Jays appeared to be in a strong position after taking the first two games of this series, but they ended up dropping the final two and a struggling offense continued to be the main culprit. Toronto was limited to four hits in the series finale and put only three runners in scoring position against Meyer and four relievers.
"They're human beings," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I don't care how good they've been. Nobody likes to struggle. It's a pressure business. These guys are right there in the arena, not on the outside looking in. It's a battle and the reason they're here is that they're great competitors, talented guys. Sometimes you run into a road block and you struggle."
Baltimore took over sole possession of the first Wild Card spot with a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers and Mariners pulled within two games with victories over the Indians and Astros.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Trout does it again: A day after his Matrix-style slide into third, Trout made another excellent slide to give the Angels their second run. Trout ran for home from second on a Pujols single, but seemed to get beat by José Bautista's throw from right. However, Trout slid well right of home plate, with no part of his body touching the plate until his hand slipped in under Dioner Navarro's outstretched glove. Trout made the sprint from second to home in 7.43 seconds, according to Statcast™, which is tied for his eighth-fastest of 2016. More >
"He's an athlete. Mike plays the game one way: full out," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Whether he's running the bases or in the outfield, he gets after it and he's made some good slides."
Keeping it close: Toronto's defense has been a major concern this month with 14 errors in 16 games but Troy Tulowitzki did come up with a very nice play in the bottom of the fourth inning that kept the Blue Jays close. With a runner on third and one out, Graterol hit a slow grounder to shortstop. Tulowitzki charged the ball and made a perfect throw home to get the sliding Andrelton Simmons by a couple of feet. That kept the score 1-0.
"It's tough, that's why veteran players are so important," Tulowitzki said. "They've been there, done that before, know how to take professional at-bats, know how to turn it around this time of the month, not get in their own head. That's what I like about this clubhouse, we have a lot of those guys.
Going retro: Meyer has worked to get a higher release point like he had in college. Given that Meyer is among the tallest pitches in baseball at 6-foot-9, raising his arm slot and posture on the mound led to some devastating angles against right-handed batters. Meyer had moved away from the old delivery when he went through what he described as biceps tendinitis in 2013.
Running wild:Edwin Encarnacion led off the top of the fourth inning with a double, which marked the 200th of his career in a Toronto uniform. The Blue Jays hoped that would be the start of a rally but instead Encarnacion made an ill-advised decision to try for third base on grounder up the middle. Second baseman Cliff Pennington was in perfect position to field the ball and made a clean throw to third as Encarnacion was thrown out by a wide margin. It marked the second consecutive game that Toronto had a baserunner thrown out at third with less than two outs after Devon Travis made a similar mistake on Saturday night.
"We're right there, we play those teams that are right there with us, too, with our remaining schedule. We like where we're at, obviously we know we can play better and hopefully that comes out real soon." -- Tulowitzki on the standings
"Today was electric. He had great angle, great velocity, spinning the ball well, threw some good changeups ... he was very pitch-efficient and effective. That's a good lineup over there." -- Scioscia said on Meyer's scoreless outing
The game was delayed for 13 minutes in the bottom of the third inning as a swarm of bees descended upon the field. The bees hovered around first base as Encarnacion started swatting them away with his glove before running across to the other side of the diamond. Home-plate umpire C.B. Bucknor called for time and all of the players went to the third-base side of the field before eventually retreating to their respective dugouts. More >
It was a sight somewhat familiar to the Angels, as they had a Spring Training game last season delayed to another swarm.
"I don't know if it was the same swarm in Arizona that hit us last year, we've had them occasionally here," Scioscia said. "We've got to share the world. That's the best way I can put it."
Toronto lost its challenge in the bottom of the sixth inning following a stolen base by Rafael Ortega. After Ortega stole second, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons asked for a review, but following a delay and one minute and two seconds, the call on the field was confirmed and Ortega was awarded his sixth stolen base of the year.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada (8-9, 3.78) will take the mound in Seattle when the Blue Jays open a three-game series with the Mariners that will have plenty of ramifications on the American League Wild Card race. Estrada was one of the best pitchers in the league during the first half of the season but over his last 10 starts he is 3-6 with a 5.47 ERA. First pitch is at 10:10 p.m. ET.
Angels: The Angels will hit the road as they open a series against the division-leading Rangers on Monday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:05 p.m. PT. Jhoulys Chacín (5-8, 5.43) will take the mound, looking to follow up a six-inning, one-run return to the rotation.
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Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Angels on Saturday.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.