ANAHEIM – Start at the end Friday night, the ninth inning. A three-run lead for Grant Balfour to protect and the Nos. 8, 9 and 1 batters in the Los Angeles Angels order waiting to hit.
Of course. It was that same cushion and that same part of the order that gave Balfour fits Thursday as the Angels rallied past the Tampa Bay Rays for a loss that Rays manager Joe Maddon said he tested his 30-minute rule, which is the time Maddon allows for himself and the players to celebrate a win or mourn a loss.
On Friday, Balfour delivered – three pop ups and a strikeout – and the Rays won 3-0 at Angel Stadium.
“That’s what Grant looks like,” Maddon said.
Balfour was pulled Thursday after walking the first two batters and allowing an RBI single. Brad Boxberger was summoned to face Mike Trout, and Trout ended the game with a three-run homer, handing the Rays a stunning 6-5 loss.
It was a trying loss because everything worked so well up until the ninth inning – the starting pitching, the bullpen, the offense.
It was the same story Friday.
Chris Archer, who tweaked a few things in his delivery on the advice of David Price, turned in his best start since mid-April, allowing two hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The offense did its part with a solo home run from Yunel Escobar and RBI singles by James Loney and Longoria.
The bullpen came through, with Juan Carlos Oviedo, Jake McGee and Joel Peralta building the bridge to Balfour.
Archer won for the first time since April 19.
He did walk five batters, but he avoided the big inning by making the big pitch. No pitch was bigger then when he got Albert Pujols to ground out to Evan Longoria at third base to end the fifth inning after he walked the bases-loaded with two outs.
McGee also pitched out of a jam by getting Pujols to fly out to right field in the seventh inning with two on.
It all lead to Balfour, who was not pleased about being pulled from Thursday’s game with the Rays still ahead by two runs because he felt he could have done his job. In fact, that was one of the factors that allowed him to remain positive Friday afternoon when he returned to the clubhouse.
“I know I didn’t start off well but I didn’t get the chance (to finish),” Balfour said. “I thought about it. I didn’t blow the save (Thursday) night. I didn’t get a chance to finish the game. I was out of the game. I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Who knows? I could have come out of it, who knows? No one knows. And the thing is that’s part of the game.”
Balfour watched video of himself pitching in Thursday’s game, noticed two areas that needed fixing and fixed them while throwing in the outfield during batting practice.
“The couple of things mechanical were big, actually,” Balfour said. “I know it’s all mindset. There were two little things that got me where I needed to be and allowed me to hit my spots and put the ball where I wanted to put it, and the mindset behind it and the conviction behind it makes all the difference.”
Maddon said before the game that Balfour needed to be more assertive on the mound and pitch more with his fastball.
Maddon told Balfour that during a little chat the two had in right field toward the end of BP.
“I spoke Australian and he spoke English, and we got after it a little bit,” Maddon said. “Not in a negative way, we just talked. I just tried to reemphasize to him that’s not how you pitch, so let’s get back to how you pitch. I much prefer that you get hit and lose and whatever than walk and lose and whatever. So we talked about being more aggressive in the zone he was very accountable throughout the whole thing, easy conversation, good conversation.”
Said Balfour, “It was a good talk. When he was talking to me I had already done a few things, preparation before the game, so I felt confident in what I had to do tonight. I was excited about getting out there to do it. It’s like getting a new toy. Even though it’s all things I do, I was anxious to get out there and harness and do what I did.”
“I knew in myself what I did and the way I pitched some games, it’s not me and not who they signed to have here closing out games,” he said. “I’m just glad I got a couple of things there that I figured out. Now I got to go out there and keep doing it and be consistent.”
CF Desmond Jennings was placed on the bereavement list and left the team because of a death in the family. OF Kevin Kiermaier was recalled from Triple A Durham to replace Jennings. Jennings is expected to return Tuesday when the Rays begin their homestand … C Ryan Hanigan left the game in the eighth inning with what he called a “cramp or mild strain” of his right hamstring. Hanigan said he doesn’t expect it to be an issue … RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right elbow surgery) threw another bullpen Friday … 2B Cole Figueroa made his major league debut and popped out as a pinch-hitter. He made one play in the field during the eighth inning. Afterwards, he was voted the player of the game by his teammates … The Rays have won seven times this year when scoring three or fewer runs … Escobar is hitting .303 in his last 10 games.