ANAHEIM -- The Blue Jays had a prime opportunity to take sole possession of the first American League Wild Card spot but Ricky Nolasco and a milestone homer from Albert Pujols made sure that would not happen for at least one more day.
Nolasco tossed six scoreless innings and Pujols hit his 30th home run of the season in Los Angeles' 6-1 victory on Saturday night at Angel Stadium. With the loss, the Blue Jays dropped to three games back of Boston for first place in the American League East and they remained tied with Baltimore for the top AL Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays currently hold the tiebreaker 9-7 over the Orioles, but the two teams meet for a three game set in Toronto later this month.
Toronto's offense continued its September woes and Nolasco was the main reason why. The veteran right-hander scattered five hits and two walks while striking out seven en route to a third quality start in his last four outings.
Toronto finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base. The leadoff hitter got a hit in all but one inning against Nolasco, but the righty was effective out of the stretch.
"It's a very tough lineup and I didn't want to face them with guys on base right from the get-go. That's just how it was," Nolasco said. "I made some mistakes to get those leadoff guys on and just tried to bear down and make some good pitches after that. Pitch count ran up a little bit. They were fouling off a lot of pitches and laying off a lot of good pitches just because I had to go straight to work, no get-me-overs."
Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis extended his hitting streak to a personal-best 14 games in the losing effort. He hit a pair of singles and a double but the Blue Jays could not find a way to bring him around to score during any of those ensuing opportunities. Toronto ranks third-worst in the AL with 55 runs scored during the month of September.
"You want to do all you can to score that run, however those guys on the mound are also trying to execute their pitches and we've got to give those guys credit today, they did a good job getting out of jams," Travis said. "I look forward to getting back out there tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Missed opportunity: Toronto entered the top of the eighth inning trailing by six, but the club did have one last chance to get into the game. Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista led off the inning with a pair of singles and Troy Tulowitzki followed two batters later with a shot off the right-field wall. The problem was that Encarnacion and Bautista tagged on the play in anticipation of a possible catch, so a run did not score. Pinch-hitter Melvin Upton Jr. added a sacrifice fly, but that was all the damage the Blue Jays could come up with vs. the Angels' bullpen. More >
"We had some chances, we couldn't get that big hit to drive in some runs," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said.
Some good company: Another milestone came for Pujols in the second inning, when he hit his 30th homer of the season to open the scoring and put the Angels up, 1-0. That gave Pujols 14 seasons with 30 or more home runs in his 16-year career. He joined Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez as the only players to accomplish the feat. More >
Costly mistake: Travis had a productive night at the plate but it was a baserunning mistake in the top of the fifth that loomed large in Toronto's loss. Travis was on second base with nobody out when Josh Donaldson hit a ground ball to shortstop. Travis made an ill-advised decision to try for third base on the play and was thrown out by Simmons. Toronto asked for a review but the call on the field was confirmed and it was the second time in the last week Travis has made that kind of error on the basepaths.
"That's the second time, I'd be very surprised if it happens again to him," Gibbons said. "Really, the play is right in front of you and you have to remember, too, who are the guys going to be at the plate anyway? You don't want to make an out there. Nobody tries harder or feels worse than he does. But he'll learn from that, I would definitely bet."
Sliding with style: Trout got his 26th stolen base of the season in the sixth inning and he certainly earned it with a high-awareness slide to avoid Donaldson's tag. The throw from Martin beat Trout to the base by a couple steps, but Trout lifted his left arm while sliding headfirst, leaving Donaldson with nothing but air in front of the base.
Angels catcher Jett Bandy left the game before the third inning due to back spasms after a groundout in the second inning. Scioscia said after the game that the team should know more about his outlook on Sunday.
WHAT'S NEXT Blue Jays: Right-hander Marcus Stroman (9-8, 4.55) will take the mound when the Blue Jays close out their four-game series against the Angels on Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium. Stroman has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last three outings but is 0-3 over that span because of a lack of run support. First pitch is at 3:35 p.m. ET.
Angels:Alex Meyer (0-2, 6.14) makes the fourth start of his career and his third as an Angel in Sunday's series finale, with first pitch scheduled for 12:35 p.m. PT. Meyer lasted a career-high four innings his last time out against the Mariners, but possibly tipping his breaking ball led to four earned runs and a loss.