Game slips away from Halos' bullpen in 10th
Pujols hits go-ahead single, but Frieri allows walk-off slam in finale
CLEVELAND -- Albert Pujols' opposite-field single against the shift plated two runs, giving his team a two-run lead in the top of the 10th. It looked like the Angels were on their way to winning the series against the Indians, going even on the road trip and moving seven games above .500.
Then Mike Scioscia entrusted a fresh-faced rookie with a save situation, but had to turn to his embattled closer when things got tough. In the end, the Angels left Progressive Field with Nick Swisher's walk-off grand slam burning in their memory.
"I left the ball up," Ernesto Frieri said after serving up the decisive blow in a crushing 5-3 loss on Thursday afternoon. "That's what he was looking for, something up in the strike zone, and he didn't miss it. He only had one chance, and he didn't miss it."
It was the eighth home run Frieri has allowed in 32 appearances this season, resulting in his third blown save and increasing his ERA to 5.83.
But Frieri was put in a tough spot.
With the Angels (38-33) up by two in the bottom of the 10th, Scioscia surprisingly turned to 22-year-old Cam Bedrosian. The rookie had given up runs in three of his five appearances this season, including a blown save in Atlanta in Saturday's 13-inning victory. Bedrosian carried a 10.13 ERA and was less than three weeks removed from pitching in Double-A.
"Ernie has been struggling a bit, and we wanted to give [the Indians] a fresh look," Scioscia said. "They haven't seen Bedrock yet. We had confidence he was going to get it done, and if we needed Ernie to bail him out, he was there. In trying to build the back end of our bullpen, Bedrock has a good arm. We feel he can handle it, and he didn't get it done today."
Bedrosian walked Michael Bourn on a 3-2 count to start the inning, then struck out Asdrubal Cabrera. He then gave up a double to Jason Kipnis on a 2-2 slider and walked Carlos Santana to load the bases, prompting Scioscia to turn to Frieri.
"It's great," Bedrosian said of Scioscia having confidence in him during big situations, "but I'm not getting the job done. Just plain and simple. You can't keep messing around with this. When you go out there, you have to get the job done. Plain and simple. You can't keep messing around with this. These guys don't have to pay for it every day. It can't happen."
Frieri got David Murphy to fly out, but his 1-2 fastball to Swisher sailed chest-high, and the Indians' slugger launched a line drive that soared just over the outstretched glove of Kole Calhoun in right field to hand the Angels their second walk-off loss of the year.
"I was just trying to hit it on a line somewhere," said Swisher, who entered that at-bat 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and a batting average below .200. "Either way, I faced Frieri the night before and saw him. That time, he had a heavy dose of sliders. In [Thursday's] at-bat, he came right at me with fastballs. I was just happy to get the head on that one."
Bedrosian was already warming up during the top of the 10th, so he was going to pitch the bottom half regardless of whether the Angels took the lead. Frieri didn't start warming up until the leadoff runner reached.
Asked if he was surprised to not start the bottom of the 10th, Frieri, who blew a four-run lead in Atlanta on Saturday, declined to comment.
The Angels had already used Kevin Jepsen and Joe Smith, both of whom threw scoreless frames following C.J. Wilson's seven strong innings. But Scioscia could have deployed Mike Morin, the 23-year-old rookie who has a 1.21 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings.
"Mike's been throwing a lot," Scioscia said of Morin, who made five appearances over a recent seven-day stretch, but had gone two full days without pitching. "Cam has the type of stuff we know will play in the back end, and it was an opportunity for him. We had every confidence he was going to go out there and make his pitches."
But that confidence backfired on Scioscia, just like Tuesday's eighth-inning decisions -- not pinch-running Collin Cowgill for Raul Ibanez, not sacrificing the tying run to scoring position and not challenging a close call at second after Ibanez was caught stealing -- also backfired.
Having lost five of their last seven, the Angels are five games over .500 and are in second place as they prepare to host the Rangers over the weekend.
"We can't afford to lose games like this, so we have to figure out a way to not let these games get away from us in the future," Wilson said. "And we will. It's just a matter of time. Hopefully we do it with enough time left in the season."