Any loss is magnified in a tight playoff race. The Los Angeles Angels’ latest defeat could loom particularly large.
Hoping to shake the effects of a disheartening loss, the Angels look to avoid dropping their second straight series Sunday against the Kansas City Royals.
After winning Friday’s series opener, the Angels were two outs away from another victory Saturday night following a brilliant outing from Zack Greinke, who left with a 2-0 lead. Ernesto Frieri replaced Greinke with a runner at first and one out in the ninth and promptly served up Billy Butler’s tying home run. Three pitches later, Salvador Perez homered off the left-field pole to give Kansas City (66-79) a stunning 3-2 win.
“We knew to look for a fastball,” Perez said. “That’s what he throws. I just looked at the umpire. When he threw his hand up, I knew we got it.”
Frieri’s blown save sent the Angels (79-67) to their fourth loss in six games following an 11-1 stretch. They did get some help when Baltimore lost to Oakland later Saturday, keeping them within 2 1/2 games of the second wild card.
“Anytime you lose a game late it’s a heavier page to turn, but we have to come out tomorrow,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We’re at the point in the season where everything changes, inning to inning, pitch to pitch.”
“We’re professionals,” catcher Chris Iannetta said. “We’ve been there before. We’ve all come through losses like this, gone through highs and lows. We know how to bounce back. It’s just what we do. We know how to turn the page.”
Hunter leads the AL with a .349 average since the All-Star break and has 16 RBIs in his last 17 games.
Butler’s homer continued a torrid stretch for the Kansas City designated hitter, who is batting .352 with 16 RBIs in his last 21 games. He has four homers and nine RBIs in eight games against the Angels this season.
The Angels send Dan Haren (10-11, 4.45 ERA) to the mound hoping he can continue his run of solid outings.
Haren is 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his past four starts, striking out 21 and walking three during that span. He failed to win his third straight start Monday, allowing three runs - including a pair of solo homers - and four hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-1 loss to Oakland.
Haren is 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts against the Royals but struggled in a 6-3 loss to them in his season debut April 7. He allowed five runs and a season-high 11 hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Kansas City looks to continue in the role of spoiler behind rookie Will Smith (5-7, 4.94), who aims to build off his best outing of the season.
After posting a 6.75 ERA while losing his previous three starts, the left-hander scattered seven hits - all singles - and struck out a career-high seven over seven innings of a 9-1 win at Minnesota on Tuesday.
Smith has notched quality starts in each of his last two outings at home, but is 1-4 with a 6.07 ERA there on the season.
He was outstanding in a 4-1 victory in Anaheim on July 24, yielding one run and two hits over seven innings.