Angels can't touch Blue Jays' Rzepczynski
Lefty blanks Los Angeles over 7 innings for 1st major league win in 12 months
Mark Rzepczynski might have spent much of this season in the majors if he was a member of the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners or Texas Rangers.
Pitching for an American League West club, he would be afforded four or five starts against the Los Angeles Angels, the one team he has handled in his brief major league career.
Summoned from AAA Las Vegas for a spot start at Anaheim, Calif., Rzepczynski induced 12 ground ball outs and held the Angels to two hits over a career-high seven innings to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to a 3-0 win.
It marked the left-hander's first victory since Aug. 21, 2009, when he limited the Angels to a single run on three hits and struck out six in 6 1/3 innings pitched. It also was the Blue Jays' 10th shutout, tying Oakland for the AL lead.
"It's been an up and down year," said Rzepczynski, whose season was delayed when a batted ball broke his left middle finger during a spring training start against the New York Yankees. "Unfortunately I was hurt at the beginning, and then the last time I was up here I tried to do too much. So it was good to just stay within myself and help the team win."
Rzepczynski (1-1) showed off a different delivery Friday than the one Blue Jays fans remember from his most recent start with Toronto on July 21, when he struggled with his mechanics and was touched for five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 5-2 loss at Kansas City.
Rzepczynski retired 14 of his last 15 batters, fanned six, didn't walk a batter and threw 65 of his 101 pitches for strikes to get the Jays' nine-game road trip off to a positive start.
He was born in nearby Yorba Linda and lives in Riverside. Among Friday night's crowd of 40,606 were a group of 20 family members and friends, including his parents.
A few butterflies
"It was good to pitch at home and pitch in front of them because there are a lot of them who haven't seen me pitch before. So it was exciting," Rzepczynski said. "Warming up, I had a little bit of butterflies. But once I got out there, I told myself to slow the game down and just go out there and pitch like it was any other ball game."
He entered Friday's game with a 7.15 earned-run average in four appearances with Toronto this season. In 12 starts with Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League, Rzepczynski posted a 6.04 ERA.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston decided to have Brandon Morrow skip a turn in the rotation after last Sunday's 1-0 masterpiece against Tampa Bay in which he set career highs with 137 pitches and 17 strikeouts and lost his bid for a no-hitter on Evan Longoria's two-out single in the ninth.
"They gave me the chance, and I'm glad I was able to back it up and do what they needed me to," Rzepczynski said. "I still felt like I had plenty left. I'm not overthrowing it anymore, like I was the last time I was up here. I felt like I could have kept going, which was a good thing."
The only hits surrendered by the 24-year-old southpaw in his 14th big-league start were a Juan Rivera ground-rule double in the second inning and Mike Napoli's base hit to open the fifth.
"They're a good hitting team. So for Marc to do that and keep those guys off balance, it's a tribute to him," Toronto first baseman Lyle Overbay said. "It was good to see. He's got the stuff. It's just a matter of him believing it and doing it."
Rzepczynski looked a little shaky in the third inning when he hit Peter Bourjos and Bobby Abreu in consecutive at-bats, but he settled down to get Erick Aybar to ground out and struck out Maicer Izturis.
Rzepczynski also was the beneficiary of some sensational defensive play by the Blue Jays.
With Toronto leading 2-0 in the sixth, shortstop Yunel Escobar went hard to his left to scoop up Aybar's hard grounder and throw out the shortstop. Second baseman Aaron Hill grabbed Izturis's hit up the middle and threw across his body to nail the third baseman.
In the eighth, Hill bare-handed a grounder to the side of the pitcher's mound and shuffled the ball to Overbay to nail the speedy Bourjos.
Offensively, Toronto staked Rzepczynski to an early lead, much like it did a year ago with the lefty on the mound against the Angels.
Adam Lind drilled a ball to the gap in right-centre field that went off the heel of Bourjos's glove for a leadoff triple. He scored three batters later on an Edwin Encarnacion single.
Lind also contributed to the Jays' second run in the fourth inning. After Vernon Wells walked and advanced to second base on wild pitch by Angels' starter and losing pitcher Scott Kazmir (8-10), Lind moved him to third base on a single. Wells scored on a Hill sacrifice fly.
Toronto made it 3-0 in the seventh with a run off relief pitcher Francisco Rodriguez.
Scott Downs and Kevin Gregg each pitched an inning in relief, with Gregg recording his 26th save of the season in 30 chances.
The 61-54 Jays send another lefty, Brett Cecil, to the mound against Ervin Santana on Saturday in a 6:05 p.m. PT start. Cecil two-hit Los Angeles over 7 1/3 innings at Angel Stadium in a 6-0 win on May 24.
With files from The Associated Press