Blue Jays aim to top Angels for first series win

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The finale of the four-game series between the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Angels on Monday night looms large for the teams that have struggled at the start of the season.

The Angels have lost 10 of their last 12 and have a bullpen running on empty. The relief corps allowed the bulk of the runs Friday in an 8-7, 13-inning loss, was touched for three late runs in a 5-4 win Saturday, then gave up six runs in the last two Toronto at-bats in a 6-2 loss Sunday.

Four of the six available relief pitchers for Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia on Sunday were non-roster invitees to spring training, and a fifth, Brooks Pounders, made his Angels debut.

“We’ve had a few guys do a real good job,” Scioscia said Sunday, noting Bud Norris and Jose Alvarez, who each had three-up, three-down innings. “We just came to a point where it caught up with us.”

Deolis Guerra and Pounders were roughed up Sunday. Pounders allowed four runs on five hits, two of them home runs and four for extra bases.

Toronto, meanwhile, has a chance to win a series for the first time this season and post its first back-to-back wins of 2017. The Blue Jays lost their first five series, a team record and the most in the American League to start a season since the 2010 Baltimore Orioles lost their first seven series.

The Blue Jays are 2-6 in one-run games. Asked if there was any solace in playing close and entertaining games, manager John Gibbons paused.

“Great solace,” he said sarcastically. “No.”

Gibbons was happier after the Sunday win, the team’s second in three games, both comeback efforts. It was also Toronto’s first win this season in which the opponent scored first.

“Times have been hard,” said Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis, who hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth. “You have to preach to yourself that this is all part of the game. Ruts aren’t easy to break, and we’re all struggling, but we have a good clubhouse. We’ll break this.”

Monday’s starting pitchers are a pair of journeymen who have not fared well against their opponent.

Toronto left-hander Francisco Liriano (1-1, 5.11 ERA) is in his 12th major league season. He was 8-13 last season with a 4.69 ERA and his highest rate of walks per nine innings (4.7) since 2012.

Liriano, 33, has made 11 appearances (10 starts) against the Angels, producing a 2-6 record, 6.20 ERA and slash line of .315/.391/.502. He lost both appearances in 2016. In a June start, he yielded 10 hits, four walks and seven runs in 3 1/3 innings. He pitched better against Los Angeles in September, allowing six hits and two runs in six innings. His last win against the Angels came in 2013.

Angels starter Jesse Chavez was scheduled to pitch Saturday night, but he was forced into relief Friday and his start was pushed back. He is a 10-year veteran with a career record of 27-43 for seven teams, including two stints with Toronto in 2012 and 2016.

Chavez is 0-4 with an 8.53 ERA in four appearances against the Blue Jays, with a slash line of .357/.379/.554. He gave up a three-run home run in the 13th inning Friday that proved to be the difference.

Chavez made a career-high 73 relief appearances for Pittsburgh in 2009, and 62 for the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He was a starter for two seasons in Oakland (2014-1015), going 15-23.