ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—The Angels and the Blue Jays both began the year expecting to be in a pennant race when August rolled around, not marking time through the final weeks of dismal seasons.
Mark Trumbo and the Angels still aren’t giving up, and they won the year’s first meeting between two of the AL’s biggest underachievers.
Trumbo homered in the Angels’ four-run first inning, Garrett Richards allowed four hits over seven strong innings, and Los Angeles snapped its six-game losing streak with an 8-2 victory over Toronto on Thursday.
J.B. Shuck drove in three runs for the Angels, who avoided their longest skid in more than three years by pounding Toronto starter Josh Johnson for 10 hits in the opener of a four-game series.
Los Angeles (49-58) is 13 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West, and Toronto (50-58) is 15 games out in the East.
”We look for wins, whether or not we’re in the thick of it,” Trumbo said. ”This is a team that’s not going to stop working hard, no matter what we’re facing.”
The Angels stumbled home from an awful road trip with their waning playoff hopes further diminished by three straight losses in Texas on game-ending homers.
Those three gut-punch defeats dropped Los Angeles 10 games below .500, and the trip also included Albert Pujols’ move to the disabled list with a foot injury.
But with plenty of offensive support, Richards (3-4) was dominant in his first home start since April 20 and his second start since rejoining the Angels’ rotation, allowing two runs and striking out four.
”This is a fighting club,” Richards said. ”We’re definitely not giving up as a team. We’re not panicking. We still have 50-something games to go, and we’re still going to show up at the yard every day ready to go.”
Colby Rasmus had two hits and scored a run for Toronto, which had won five of seven.
Trumbo hit his 24th homer off Johnson (1-8), whose first career start against the Angels was a disaster. After allowing seven runs, Johnson was chased in the third inning with the bases loaded. His career-worst losing streak stretched to six starts.
”It’s frustration. That’s it,” Johnson said. ”I’m out there trying to battle, trying to get through it and trying to stay positive. You’ve got to find a way. I’ll come back and watch some video and do whatever I can to get back. The worst part is doing this to my bullpen and my teammates. I felt like I made some pretty good pitches, but they were hitting the ball all over the place.”
Los Angeles led Toronto 3-0 after five batters when Howie Kendrick singled home Kole Calhoun and scored on Trumbo’s impressive shot to left on a hanging curve.
Los Angeles batted around in the first inning, scored another run in the second on Josh Hamilton’s sacrifice fly, and chased Johnson in the third with four singles, Shuck’s RBI flyout and a walk.
”He’s one of our guys, man,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said of Johnson. ”He works as hard as anybody. It’s a cruel business. He’s one of those guys you root for. He’s got that personality. He’s a good guy, and you feel for guys like that. He’s had a lot of success at this level, and he at rock-bottom right now.”
Toronto left fielder Melky Cabrera made things worse in the third when he picked up Erick Aybar’s single and lost control of the ball while attempting to throw it back to the cutoff man, allowing Trumbo to score the Angels’ sixth run.
The ball comically popped into the air and landed behind Cabrera, who left the game in the fourth inning with what the club called irritation in his left knee.
After the game, the Blue Jays placed Cabrera on the 15-day disabled list and recalled right-hander Neil Wagner.
Richards faced little trouble until the fifth, when Adam Lind scored on Rasmus’ double and Calhoun’s error in right field. Rasmus then scored on a groundout by Maicer Izturis, the former Los Angeles utility infielder who got warm cheers from the Angel Stadium crowd in his return.
NOTES: Pujols will be in a walking boot for three more weeks, but the $240 million first baseman said he wants to play again this season, no matter where the Angels might be in the standings. Manager Mike Scioscia was more circumspect, saying a decision is still several weeks away. … Toronto activated RHP Sergio Santos from the 60-day disabled list and put RHP Dustin McGowan on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right oblique muscle. Santos, out since April 13 with an injured elbow, pitched two innings of relief, allowing one hit and one run. … Angels LHP Jason Vargas will throw a three-inning simulated game in the bullpen Saturday, and if it goes well, he’ll likely make a minor-league rehab start before Los Angeles considers putting him back in the rotation. Vargas hasn’t pitched since June 17 because of a blood clot in his left arm.