Alvarez's effort offers relief to overworked 'pen

Alvarez's effort offers relief to overworked 'pen

Alvarez's effort offers relief to overworked 'pen
TORONTO -- Blue Jays manager John Farrell recently spoke about the importance of his starters going deeper into games to rest a bullpen that has been overworked, a wish that was granted on Saturday.

Backed by more run support than he needed, Henderson Alvarez turned in one of his strongest performances of the season.

Alvarez lasted seven innings, while the offense erupted for a seven-run second inning to power Toronto to an 11-2 victory over the Angels at Rogers Centre.

"It is always good to go deep into the game," Alvarez said through interpreter Luis Rivera. "There were some long innings in-between, which is good for us. But I battled the whole game, and it was good that I was able to go seven."

Alvarez had little trouble with the Angels, surrendering just one run in the third inning and seven hits to improve to 5-6.

After the Blue Jays lost starters Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison in a matter of a week, they needed Alvarez to pitch like he did at the beginning of the season.

The 22-year-old was in the midst of a rough stretch after a solid start to the year, allowing at least four runs in seven of his past eight starts. But he cruised against Los Angeles and registered his team-best ninth quality start of the season.

Alvarez entered the contest with a 6.14 ERA in June, after posting marks of 3.62 and 3.51 in April and May. But he walked away victorious for the second consecutive start, and allowed his fewest earned runs in a game since a May 10 outing against the Twins.

The right-hander walked none and struck out three, while throwing 59 of his 80 pitches for strikes -- and inducing 12 groundouts. Alvarez entered the game with the fourth highest ground-ball percentage in the Majors, and has now recorded double-digit groundouts in all but one of his 16 starts.

"I worked really hard with my sinker to keep it down," Alvarez said about his sinking fastball, which is his bread-and-butter pitch. "I used my changeup a lot. It was fastball, changeup [today]."

The only reason Alvarez was removed from the game was because of the score, which was 11-1 at the time of his departure. It had nothing to do with the elbow soreness that forced him to prematurely exit his last outing.

In an effort to get Alvarez back on track, the Blue Jays had him alter his positioning on the mound -- something Farrell thought worked during his last outing, and again on Saturday.

"I think the move to the third-base side has had a lot of effect," Farrell said. "When he is to his armside, he has some heavy sinking action, and that was the case today."

Alvarez made a positive impression on the opposition, as well. He has now allowed just one earned run against the Angels over 16 innings this season.

"I think he started off [well], his stuff looked good," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As the game went on, his stuff looked like it was dropping a little bit -- whether it was a situation with his arm or just the game condition, where they had a big lead. But he's got good stuff, that's for sure."

The Blue Jays' bats certainly helped Alvarez, too. After scoring one in the first, the team put together a seven-run second inning, which matched a season high.

Kelly Johnson doubled to start the frame and Yunel Escobar followed with a two-run blast to left field off Angels starter Garrett Richards that increased Toronto's lead to 3-0.

Then, after Richards recorded two outs, the Blue Jays broke the game open, as six consecutive batters reached base -- including five who came around to score.

The Blue Jays batted around in the frame, and it was the most runs the Angels have surrendered in an inning this season. But it wasn't all on Richards, as outfielders Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout made costly mistakes which kept Toronto's rally alive.

Richards lasted 4 1/3 innings, leaving in the fifth after issuing back-to-back walks. He was replaced by David Carpenter, who proceeded to surrender a three-run homer to Brett Lawrie, his third hit of the game and eighth home run of the year, that put Toronto ahead, 11-1.

Toronto, winners of back-to-back contests against the Angels, has pounded out 33 hits over the first three games of the series.

"It's not worrying about the result, it's worrying about hitting the ball hard and hitting it on the screws -- not worrying where it goes," said Lawrie, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

The 24-year-old Richards allowed 10 runs (five earned) on nine hits, while walking four and striking out three, to take his first loss of the season.

Even with the big lead, the Blue Jays' players continued giving maximum effort late in the game.

In the eighth, catcher J.P. Arencibia made a terrific catch over the dugout railing on a Trout popup. Later in the inning, Colby Rasmus made a sensational diving catch to rob Albert Pujols of extra bases.

Rasmus led off the bottom half of the frame and was greeted at the plate by chants of "Colby," much to the delight of his teammate Lawrie.

"It's awesome, he's playing the game so well right now," Lawrie said about Rasmus. "He's playing it hard and smart, too. He is not worrying about at-bats, he's just going up there and letting it fly. I give him props for that, because this game can be so frustrating."

The 29,287 in attendance pushed the Blue Jays over the 1,000,000 mark for the year, the fastest they have reached that total since 1998.

Chris Toman is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.