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Price stifles Halos as Blue Jays gain in races

ANAHEIM -- David Price shut down the Angels for eight innings on Friday night, holding them to two runs on six hits and striking out nine, as the Blue Jays rolled to a 9-2 win in the series opener between the two American League Wild Card leaders at Angel Stadium. Toronto extended its lead on the Angels to four games in the Wild Card standings and also closed to within a half-game of the Yankees in the AL East.

In the first of the three meetings between the two AL MVP front-runners -- Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson and Angels center fielder Mike Trout -- Donaldson went 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs, while Trout went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. One of those was a big strikeout with two runners on in the sixth, when Trout went down looking at a 97 mph Price fastball.

"He's obviously one of the best in the league," Trout said of Price. "It's a battle every time you face him. He throws all his pitches for strikes, he throws hard. He can change speeds with his fastball, throwing that changeup, slider, cutter. It was a tough one tonight."

Spencer: Price is just ace Blue Jays needed

Angels starter Hector Santiago walked four batters in a 48-pitch, three-run first inning, and the left-hander threw 95 pitches in 3 2/3 innings before being lifted, equalling his shortest outing of the season. The Angels did maintain a half-game lead for the second AL Wild Card spot over the Orioles and Rangers.

Video: [email protected]: Martin draws a bases-loaded walk in the 1st

"We're not really focused on the Wild Card, we're still playing for the division," Donaldson said. "With that said, every game right now is important and they have a really good ballclub over there. It's important for us to show up day in and day out, and do our best to win that game."

Video: [email protected]: Donaldson drives in Revere on an RBI double

Price on point: Price cruised through the early stages of the game and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but his night wasn't without at least a little bit of adversity. In the sixth, Shane Victorino and Kole Calhoun hit singles to put runners on first and second with nobody out. That spelled trouble with Trout and Albert Pujols due up but Price got Trout to strike out looking and Pujols hit a lazy ball to right. Toronto's ace then struck out C.J. Cron to end the inning without any damage.

"In that situation, if I was going to get beat, I was going to get beat with my best pitch and that's my fastball," Price said of the Trout at-bat. "I wanted to challenge him. I didn't necessarily execute that third fastball, but I'll take the result. He's the best player in baseball right now, so it always feels good to get that guy out." More >

Video: [email protected]: Price strikes out Trout looking in the 6th

Victorino comes up empty: Even after his four walks in the first, Santiago still should have been out of the inning only down, 1-0. But with the bases loaded and two outs, Victorino whiffed on a sliding catch attempt on Kevin Pillar's flare to left field. The play brought home two runs, and even though he had to slide, Victorino was charged with an error for missing the catchable ball. The veteran left fielder also made a throwing error in the top of the ninth, giving him the first two-error game of his career.

"I thought he had it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Shane closed on it quickly. He really got a good read, he was there, and I don't know if it got in the lights or what happened, but it popped out of his glove."

Video: [email protected]: Fielding error allows two runs to score

Smoaked it: Justin Smoak put the game on ice in the top of the seventh inning with a two-run shot to left that gave Toronto a 7-1 lead. According to Statcast™, Smoak's 12th of the year was projected to travel 404 feet and left his bat at 108 mph. Smoak usually sits against lefties, but he got the start against Santiago, and even though he didn't get a hit off the Angels starter he did homer off Angels lefty reliever Jose Alvarez.

"He has hit them better than I thought he was going to," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We brought him over here to primarily face right handers and he's had a limited time against lefties but shoot … he's shown me something."

Video: [email protected]: Smoak belts a two-run homer to left-center

Cron's tough night: With the Angels giving Pujols another day off his feet by starting him at designated hitter, C.J. Cron misplayed multiple balls at first base. Cron dropped Russell Martin's popup behind the bag in the third inning and booted Ben Revere's sharp grounder in the fourth. The Angels are much better defensively with Pujols at first and Cron at DH, but they need to balance that with keeping the veteran Pujols fresh down the stretch.

"You expect a lot of things, but if you're not catching popups, you're gonna lose that game eight days a week," Scioscia said. "We lost this game in so many different ways, and defense was certainly one part of it, and we have to play better. They're a good club over there, but it wouldn't have mattered who we were playing tonight."

"We have our eyes on the people in front of us. I don't know who's behind us, I don't know what teams are behind us in the Wild Card. That's not a factor. We're looking at the Yankees and that's it." -- Price.

Price's 2.17 ERA (35 ER / 145 1/3 IP) since May 1 is the second lowest by any American League pitcher with at least 15 starts since May 1. Oakland's Sonny Gray is first with a 2.06 ERA.

Price also became the first pitcher in Blue Jays history to allow three runs or fewer with six or more strikeouts in each of his first four starts with the team.

Blue Jays: Right-hander Marco Estrada gets the call when the Blue Jays continue their series against the Angels on Saturday night at 9:37 p.m. ET. Estrada recorded yet another quality start during his last outing against the Yankees after allowing two runs over six strong innings. He has allowed more than two earned runs just once since June 19.

Angels: Left-hander Andrew Heaney takes the mound for the Angels on Saturday at 6:37 p.m. PT. The rookie has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his 10 starts, including his latest outing, when he held the White Sox to one run in six innings.

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David Adler is an associate reporter for Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: David Price, Hector Santiago, Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak, Mike Trout