ANAHEIM -- Some of the best moments in Kendrys Morales' career have occurred at Angel Stadium. He added another one to the highlight reel during Sunday's series finale.
Morales hit a pinch-hit home run in the top of the 10th inning to give the Blue Jays a 7-6 win over Los Angeles. The former Angel unloaded on a 2-1 slider from Hansel Robles and sent it deep into the right field seats to let his bullpen off the hook and give Toronto its second consecutive victory.
The 35-year-old Morales has been on a tear lately after a poor first two months of the year. He has multiple hits in nine of his last 15 starts and he's now batting .346 (37-for-107) over his last 33 games with nine doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs. Morales' OPS, which was sitting at .493 on May 10, has since risen to .735.
"It's tough to hit a pinch-hit homer but Kendrys has been really swinging it well," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's kind of a return to the scene of the crime, his old stomping grounds. ... It was kind of an emotional rollercoaster. That's one of the games you have to win. If you end up coughing that up and losing that game, that sucks it out of you pretty good."
Morales' deep shot was the fifth pinch-hit home run in Blue Jays history and the first since Colby Rasmus on Sept. 4, 2014, at Tampa Bay. For Morales, it was the 45th home run of his career at Angel Stadium, and he is now batting .471 (8-for-17) with three home runs, a double and five RBIs against his former team this season.
This weekend has been a bit of a walk down memory lane for Morales, who signed with Los Angeles in December of 2004. He made his big league debut with the Angels in 2006 and the slugging designated hitter remained with the organization until he was traded to the Mariners late in 2012. Morales spent parts of six seasons in Los Angeles, including three runs to the postseason.
"I like to play here, mostly during the day," Morales said through an interpreter. "The ball flies in the air, the ball travels a lot. At night, it's a little bit different, but definitely during the day I like being here and like to play here."
Toronto right-hander Sam Gaviglio came away with the no-decision after he was charged with three runs on five hits. Gaviglio retired the first 11 batters he faced but got into some trouble in the fourth and fifth innings. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter as he departed with the score tied at three. Gaviglio initially was considered a candidate to be moved to the bullpen, but his job is safe for now after Aaron Sanchez and Jaime Garcia were placed on the disabled list earlier this week.
Toronto has now won its last two road games following a stretch of nine losses in 10 games away from Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays improved to 7-13 against the American League West this season and 3-4 vs. the Angels. Toronto also moved to one game above .500 for June (11-10) and the Blue Jays are now 29-2 when scoring at least five runs in a game and Morales was one of the main reasons why.
"When you don't start, you're always trying to be ready for that situation and when that situation happens, you always try to hit the ball hard in the air," Morales said. "He threw me a good pitch and I got a good swing on it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The near breakdown: The late-inning heroics helped overshadow some shoddy defense and more issues in the bullpen as the Blue Jays coughed up a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. Devon Travis and Yangervis Solarte each committed a throwing error and Aaron Loup issued a free pass before Dennis Tepera surrendered a two-out, bases-clearing double to Martin Maldonado. The shot to left by Maldonado sailed over Teoscar Hernandez's head in left field but he also appeared to take a step in before going back on the ball, which cost him an opportunity to make the grab.
"That eighth inning was crazy, everything just happened so quick," Travis said. "I looked up at the scoreboard and it was a tie ballgame and I felt like I didn't even understand what just happened. That was a big win. That's a day we could have been playing a long time."
The home runs: Before the eventful late innings, the Blue Jays were led on offense by a trio of home runs from Travis, Aledmys Diaz and Curtis Granderson. Toronto's offense has been middle of the pack for most of the year, as the club entered play on Sunday ranked 15th in the Major Leagues with 339 runs. When the Blue Jays do score, it's usually because of power, with 99 home runs that were tied for seventh and 260 extra-base hits, which were tied for fifth. Travis' fifth of the year was a three-run shot and he is now batting .296 average (24-for-81) with four home runs, four doubles and 12 RBIs since coming off the disabled list on May 22.
HE SAID IT
"The glasses were screwing him up. Honest to god, that's what happened. I think the last game he wore them, he was like 0 for his first 3, took them off, I don't know what he did in his fourth at-bat but from there he stopped wearing them and started hitting. I don't know. He's seeing three balls and trying to hit the one in the middle." -- Gibbons, on Morales' recent tear, which lines up with when he stopped wearing glasses at the plate
The Blue Jays will open a three-game series against the defending World Series champions when left-hander J.A. Happ (9-3, 3.56 ERA) takes the mound on Monday night in Houston with first pitch scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET. Happ allowed four runs over 8 1/3 innings in his last start but two of those runs scored after he exited the game and he is averaging 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings this season. The Astros will counter with right-hander Justin Verlander (9-2, 1.60).