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ANAHEIM, CALIF.—Appreciating the Blue Jays’ pitching performance in a 5-0 win over the Angels on Friday night must be like watching the daredevil Wallendas perform their high-wire act in a hurricane: You anticipate disaster at any time, but somehow they hold on.
A total of five Jays hurlers combined to beat the Halos, supporting a two-run homer by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki off Jered Weaver in the fourth inning and three more runs in the ninth, capped by a two-run blast from Edwin Encarnacion, his 40th of the season.
R.A. Dickey earned the win, with relief help from Joe Biagini, Joaquin Benoit, Jason Grilli and closer Roberto Osuna, who recorded the final four outs for his 33rd save. The clutch-less Angels banged out eight hits, with five walks, leaving 13 men on base and going hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
It can be argued that, at age 26 and with 54 major-league appearances under his belt, Biagini should no longer be considered a rookie. But the bottom line is the Rule 5 selection, who earned a spot in the majors out of spring training, is in uncharted territory while pitching in mid-September, a career first.
So when Dickey began the sixth inning by allowing back-to-back base hits, even though he still led by two and had thrown just 72 pitches, manager John Gibbons called for the big right-hander. Biagini loaded the bases with a walk, before retiring the side and preserving the lead for the departed knuckleballer.
In the bottom of the first, it looked like it might be another of those crooked-number nights for Dickey. Kole Calhoun ripped a line drive that forced Kevin Pillar to retreat quickly in centre field to make the catch, reaching over his head. Then two former MVPs ripped hits off Dickey: Mike Trout with a single and Albert Pujols with the 600th double of his career. But Dickey escaped the jam.
The Jays had an opportunity to score in the third inning when the first two men reached base, on a Darwin Barney single to left and a chopper down the first base line that started foul and rolled fair for Josh Thole.
But on the first pitch to Devon Travis, he squared to bunt and Barney strayed too far off second. Catcher Carlos Perez fired down to Andrelton Simmons for the pickoff. Barney hit his head on Simmons’ knee, but remained in the game. Donaldson then walked with two outs. Encarnacion ended the threat with a groundout.
Meanwhile, there was a familiar face coaching in the bullpen for this game and, in fact, until pitching coach Pete Walker returns from a family situation back home in Connecticut. It was former reliever Paul Quantrill, in uniform for a regular season game with the Jays for the first time since Oct. 7, 2001.
With bullpen coach Dane Johnson taking over Walker’s duties, a role he has filled for the past five games, the Jays needed help in the ’pen and it was either Quantrill or Pat Hentgen, both of whom work for the Jays as special assistants. Quantrill was closer when the call came.
“Simply put, it’s to lend an extra set of hands and not get in the way,” Quantrill said, playing down his presence. “I know pretty much all of the pitchers, all the young kids who came up through the organization and even the older guys. There are some guys that I played against. That means even they’re getting old, too.
“I’m in Toronto often enough to see the guys. I’m comfortable with them. I’m not here to impart any wisdom. Really, it’s just to have another person have the (opposing team) charts and have some information available to the guys.”
Quantrill spends about 75 days on the road scouting the Jays’ prospects, in addition to time at major- and minor-league spring training. He was asked if there was an urge to be back in uniform full-time, either with the Jays or elsewhere as a coach.
“The Blue Jays have been really good to me,” Quantrill said. “For the last five years I’ve been able to do a lot of different things, from the draft room to seeing players come through, going to every affiliate, every year. I’ll make a lot of trips, but they’ve afforded me the opportunity to be back, to simply keep my foot there.
“It’s been more and more. It’s not like a part-time gig anymore. I’m just a guy that finds it really interesting. I learn a lot from our young players, big-league guys, all the way down. When you have conversations, I think guys learn more from conversing and shooting the (breeze) than they do from being coached sometimes. That’s really all I’m here for, is to do what I’m told and to add some support.”