Then it all came apart for the rookie closer and the Angels in a devastating defeat that left Los Angeles on the brink of elimination.
Walden wasted a three-run lead in the ninth inning, throwing away a potential game-ending, double-play grounder Sunday in a 6-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics.
Los Angeles dropped three games behind Boston and two back of Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card race with three games left.
“It hurts to lose a game like that,” Angels right fielder Torii Hunter(notes) said. “We got insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth and just couldn’t close it out. There were some mistakes there, and they capitalized on them. When you’ve got a chance to get that wild card, you just can’t make mistakes— defensively for sure. So this game really hurts, trust me. We’ve got an uphill battle. But at the same time, we’ve still got life left and we’re still breathing.”
“I knew I was working with Aybar,” Walden said. “But the ball was hit back to me so hard and so quick, I hesitated for a second and the ball just sailed on me.”
Kurt Suzuki(notes) followed with a tying, opposite-field double to right on a 1-2 pitch, giving Walden his 10th blown save in 42 chances. Coco Crisp’s(notes) second sacrifice fly of the game put the A’s ahead.
“I blew one by Suzuki and then threw another one that was better, but he just stuck his bat out there and it went down the line,” Walden said. “I let the team down. We battled all day, and I lost the game for us. It’s tough. I’m really disappointed in myself. I feel like if I take it home with me, I might stay awake until 6 in the morning and not get any sleep.”
“We were down three runs and we battled back,” Willingham said. “They gave us a couple of things, and we took advantage of it. We had a couple of great at-bats, like Kurt Suzuki on that ball to right field in a key situation, and then that ground ball up the middle that could have ended the game gave us a chance.”
Joel Pineiro(notes) made his final start of the season for the Angels on his 33rd birthday, allowing three hits over 6 1-3 scoreless innings and retiring his first 13 batters. He took a one-hitter and a 3-0 lead into the seventh, then watched the collapse on television in the clubhouse.
“You can never count anybody out until the last out is made,” Pineiro said. “No lead is safe at any time. This one hurts a lot. We’ve got our work cut out for us the next three days.”
NOTES: DeJesus robbed Howie Kendrick(notes) of extra bases in the fifth, making a backhanded grab of his drive toward the corner and colliding with the short padded fence. He bruised his left hip on the play, but played one more inning before leaving the game. … For the second straight game, Angels 1B Mark Trumbo(notes) had to come out after six innings because of discomfort in his right ankle. … A ceremonial first pitch was thrown by David Eckstein(notes), the shortstop on the Angels’ 2002 World Series championship team. … Abreu batted .237 against Oakland this season with one home run. Last season, he hit .328 against the A’s with six homers. … Harden was 0-4 with a 6.75 ERA in seven starts against AL West teams this year, and 4-0 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts against other clubs. … Jered Weaver(notes), whose final start of the season is Wednesday against Texas, has a chance to join John Lackey(notes) and Frank Tanana as the only Angels pitchers to win an ERA title in the past 35 years. His 2.41 ERA is one point behind Justin Verlander(notes), who made his final regular-season start on Saturday. … Oakland concludes its season with a three-game series at Seattle.