ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- A perfect bunt, a bases loaded walk and a
sacrifice fly were all it took for the Toronto Blue Jays to hand
Los Angeles closer Francisco Rodriguez another blown save and
deprive Joe Saunders of a victory in his major-league debut.
Rodriguez walked Corey Koskie with the bases loaded in the ninth
inning to force in the tying run and pinch-hitter Frank
Catalanotto's flyball drove in the go-ahead run, lifting the Blue
Jays to a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.
Saunders pitched 7 1/3 innings and left with a 3-2 lead, but
Rodriguez couldn't hold it and was charged with his fifth blown
save in 32 attempts as the Angels had a four-game winning streak
"Joe pitched great, but unfortunately, he didn't get the win
because I didn't do my job and blew the save," Rodriguez said.
"I've been having a rough time the last six or seven outings. I
feel like I'm in the middle of a hurricane, but I'll be fine. My
confidence is fine. There's nothing to panic about.
"My arm feels great, I'm just not making my pitches and it's
been costing us some games," Rodriguez added. "My mechanics are
off, but mentally and physically, I'm fine. I've just got to turn
the page and be ready for tomorrow."
The Blue Jays loaded the bases against Rodriguez (2-3) on Shea
Hillenbrand's single, a walk and Gregg Zaun's bunt single up the
third base line.
"I knew I was going to be bunting in that situation, anyway, so
I got ready when I was in the on-deck circle to get my nose in
there and get it done. Luckily, it worked out great," Zaun said.
"It's hard to bunt against guys who throw hard. He moves the
ball around in the strike zone and he's got that great curveball
and slider. So you don't know what you're going to get. But I got a
hard fastball away, and it was really in a good spot for me because
I was trying to bunt the ball to third base, anyway."
Koskie worked the count to 3-2 before the next pitch missed the
outside corner, allowing Hillenbrand to score. Pinch-hitter Eric
Hinske scored on Catalanotto's fly to right.
Saunders allowed two runs and five hits, struck out two and
walked two in an emergency start for Paul Byrd, who was held out
for precautionary reasons with back spasms.
The 11-year veteran, whose next scheduled start is Sunday, said
before the game that he could have pitched against the Blue Jays
after getting treatment a couple of days earlier from the team's
Saunders, the 12th overall pick in the 2002 draft out of
Virginia Tech, retired 13 of his first 14 batters. The 24-year-old
rookie, who was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake, was working on
three days' rest after allowing four hits in eight scoreless
innings on Friday.
"It was a rush," said Saunders, pitching before a crowd of
42,486 that included his parents, who flew in from Washington D.C.
"It's every kid's dream to get up here. And once you do, the
nerves kick in, but you just try to keep calm and pitch your game.
I was pretty pleased with my performance. I just tried to throw
strikes and get guys out as quick as possible."
After the game, Saunders was optioned back to Salt Lake and
switched places with RHP Greg Jones.
Hillenbrand drove the left-hander's ninth pitch of the game into
the second tier of the left field bullpen leading off the second
for his 17th homer.
The Blue Jays didn't get another hit until Koskie singled in the
fifth after a one-out walk to Zaun. But Saunders escaped the threat
by retiring Alex Rios on a double-play grounder.
"Our track record against guys spot-starting this year hasn't
exactly been great," Zaun said. "I think a surefire way to beat
us is to bring somebody up from Triple-A that we've never seen
before. We don't seem to do well against guys like that. He had
good stuff, and the fact that we'd never seen him before made it
Saunders left in the eighth after giving up a single to Orlando
Hudson and walking Russ Adams. Scot Shields came on and after a
double steal, Hudson was thrown out at the plate on Reed Johnson's
grounder to first baseman Darin Erstad. Vernon Wells then grounded
Toronto starter Scott Downs allowed three runs, six hits and
three walks in 6 2/3 innings, striking out six.
The MRI taken Monday on Toronto LHP Ted Lilly came back
negative. Lilly, sidelined since July 25 because of tendinitis in
his biceps, is hoping to get at least one rehab outing before the
minor league season ends. ... Angels LF Garret Anderson sat out his
third straight game because of tightness in his lower back. He was
examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who ordered additional lab work.
Anderson missed 43 games last season because of inflammatory
arthritis in his upper back. ... Yocum took an MRI and a bone scan
on the left hip of Angels rookie 3B Dallas McPherson. The tests
revealed irritation in the hip joint, and McPherson will be
examined Wednesday by hip specialist Dr. Marc Philipon in Vail,