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Tempers flare as Blue Jays beat Angels 4-1 |


TORONTO – It’s only late July but a playoff-like atmosphere has arrived at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

Matt Chapman and Danny Jansen hit solo home runs in the second and third innings to take the lead as the Blue Jays held off the Los Angeles Angels 4-1 on Friday. The win snapped L.A.’s four-game win streak and gave Toronto a critical win in the American League’s post-season hunt.

“We’re fighting every day for a playoff spot,” said Chapman. “So I think with that in the back of our heads and just continuing to play as a team and play with each other, things are just rolling pretty good right now.”

Whit Merrifield went 3 for 4, including a home run, as the Blue Jays (58-46) won for the 13th time in 19 games, including four of their last five. Bo Bichette had an RBI double to score Merrifield in the sixth.

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Toronto sits five games back of the division-leading Baltimore Orioles in the American League East and holds the third and final AL wild-card berth. The Angels are four games back of that wild-card spot with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox between them and the Blue Jays.

“It’s not quite September yet,” said Merrifield, who hit leadoff for Toronto instead of George Springer. He was bumped down to fifth in the batting order. “Where we are in the standings, the games aren’t quite as dramatic as they will be later on in the year.

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“But still important games against good teams that are going to be in the race.”

Kevin Gausman (8-5) was superb for the Blue Jays over six-plus innings, adding nine strikeouts to his American League-leading total of 171. He allowed a run on five hits and three walks.

Relievers Erik Swanson, Tim Mayza, Jordan Romano of Markham, Ont., and Yimi Garcia preserved Gausman’s win, with Garcia picking up his third save.

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Superstar Shohei Ohtani’s first inning home run was all the offence Los Angeles (54-50) could muster. Lucas Giolito (6-7) pitched 5 1/3 innings in his Angels debut, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. Jose Soriano and Jacob Webb came out of L.A.’s bullpen.

Giolito was traded to Los Angeles from the Chicago White Sox along with fellow right-handed pitcher Reynaldo Lopez on Wednesday.

“We’re in the second half of the year, August is right around the corner,” said Chapman. “Teams are starting to make moves, teams are making pushes, so it’s pretty obvious what’s in front of us.”

Ohtani took the first pitch he saw deep to right field to give Los Angeles a 1-0 lead in the first inning. His 39th home run of the season — best in Major League Baseball — had an exit velocity of 103.5 m.p.h.

“Looking back, obviously, it was way too good a pitch,” said Gausman. “I felt like we did a good job after that of bouncing back and mixing some pitches but, I mean, he’s been an MVP for a reason.”

After the home run, TV broadcasts showed Chapman apparently confronting Schneider about not pitching around Ohtani.

“That’s just everybody being competitive, wanting to win baseball games,” said Chapman of the exchange. “Just kind of heat of the moment thing and I’ll keep that between me and my teammates and the coaches.”

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Chapman replied for Toronto in the second, sailing his 14th homer of the season into the Rogers Centre stands, delighting the sold-out crowd of 42,106.

Jansen gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the game the next inning, putting the ball just over the outfield railing. The veteran catcher has 14 home runs this year, one off of his career best in 2022. It also added to his career-best total of 46 runs batted in.

Merrifield led off the sixth with a single, then stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by Angels catcher Matt Thaiss. Bichette then came to the plate and bounced a double into the outfield to score Merrifield for a 3-1 Toronto lead.

Merrifield continued to thrive in the leadoff position in the seventh, hitting his eighth home run of the season for a 4-1 lead.

Romano came on in the ninth inning but after inducing a flyout from Hunter Renfroe got into some trouble. He gave up singles to Trey Cabbage and Eduardo Escobar and then a walk to pinch-hitter Luis Rengifo loaded the bases.

That should have brought Ohtani to the plate one last time, but cramping in both of his calves forced Angels manager Phil Nevin to have Michael Stefanic pinch hit.

Romano got a called strikeout on Stefanic that incensed Nevin but the Blue Jays closer was clearly labouring after the pitch. Romano left the game with lower back discomfort and Schneider brought on Garcia for the final out.

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Nevin confronted home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook as he passed through the visitor’s dugout after the game with L.A. players and even Toronto police having to keep the two separated.

ON DECK — Alek Manoah (2-8) gets the start in Saturday’s matinee for Toronto.

Reid Detmers (2-7) will go for the Angels.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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