Angels burned by former mate Joyce

Reliever Mahle allows three-run home run to Pirates outfielder

Angels burned by former mate Joyce

PITTSBURGH -- Angels catcher Carlos Perez shared a clubhouse with Matt Joyce for the majority of the 2015 season and saw him again on Saturday afternoon, this time in a Pirates uniform.

He noticed a different hitter.

"You can tell," Perez said, in Spanish, after the Angels' 8-7 loss at PNC Park. "He seems more focused, like he knows what he wants to do with each pitch. He has good balance."

When Joyce was announced as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh, with two on, two outs and the Pirates leading by only a couple of runs, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called on his lefty specialist, Greg Mahle, with partial hope that Pirates manager Clint Hurdle would counter with a right-handed hitter like Sean Rodriguez.

But Hurdle stuck with Joyce, who managed only one hit in 21 at-bats against left-handed pitchers last season. The Angels came in wanting to attack Joyce mostly with breaking balls, so Mahle threw back-to-back sliders and got ahead in the count, 1-2.

Then he dropped down to his lowest arm slot, flinging an 85-mph fastball intended to be located down and away. It sailed back out over the middle of the plate, and Joyce -- his hands lower, his swing path more direct to the ball -- hammered it to straightaway center field.

The ball sailed a projected 439 feet away, according to Statcast™, deep into the small patch of grass for a three-run shot.

It was Joyce's sixth home run in 69 at-bats this season -- one more than he produced in 247 at-bats with the Angels last year.

"A little bit," Joyce said when asked if it felt any better to do it against his former team. "I enjoyed my time over there, except the failing part."

Joyce batted only .174/.272/.291 with the Angels last year, but he is hitting .333/.465/.681 since joining the Pirates on a Minor League contract.

His home run on Saturday initially appeared to blow the game open. But after the Angels rallied for four runs in the eighth, it proved to be the game-winner.

The bottom of the seventh began with a 3-3 score. Fernando Salas' first pitch, to Gregory Polanco, was sent a projected 451 feet to right field for a home run. The next batter, Starling Marte, reached second when Angels second baseman Johnny Giavotella fielded a grounder up the middle and made an errant, off-balance throw to first.

Two batters later, Josh Harrison lined an RBI single to center. And three batters after that, Joyce joined the likes of Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton -- players who have burned the Angels shortly after leaving them.

"You're looking at the other team, and Matt's on the other team," Scioscia said, plainly, when asked if it hurt more to surrender that home run to a player like Joyce. "You try to pitch to his holes, just like when he was with our team other teams tried to do. We just didn't get there today."

Alden Gonzalez has covered the Angels for since 2012. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.