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Angels drop home opener to Toronto, 3-2

Angels starter Ervin Santana gives up a solo home run to the Blue Jays third baseman Jayson Nix with two outs in the eighth inning.

April 08, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels starter Ervin Santana delivers a pitch during the second inning of Friday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Angels starter Ervin Santana delivers a pitch during the second inning… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

Ervin Santana delivered a quality start, and Fernando Rodney threw a scoreless ninth inning Friday night. Just the way the Angels drew it up in spring training, right?

Not quite. Much like the Angels bullpen in the season-opening series in Kansas City, that blueprint quickly went up in smoke.

Rodney, stripped of his closer's role when he lost touch with the strike zone against the Royals, was pitching because the Angels were trailing, not leading, in the ninth.

And though Santana looked strong through eight, he made one costly mistake that spoiled the home opener on a chilly, 52-degree evening at Angel Stadium.

Toronto third baseman Jayson Nix, acquired from Cleveland for cash considerations just three days before the season opener, lined a solo home run to left with two outs in the eighth to lift the Blue Jays to a 3-2 victory.

The game-winner came on a 2-and-0 fastball from Santana, who had a perfect game through 4 1/3 innings and gave up three runs and six hits in eight innings, striking out seven and walking one.

"To me, that was the mistake, the home run," Santana said. "I got behind in the count and came in with a 2-0 fastball down the middle."

After the game, the Angels put struggling left-hander Scott Kazmir on the 15-day disabled list because of tightness in his lower back, an injury the team said flared up after Kazmir's workout Wednesday in Tampa Bay.

Matt Palmer will be called up from triple-A Salt Lake to pitch Saturday night against the Blue Jays.

Kazmir, who is owed $14.5 million this season, appeared on the verge of being released after he went 9-15 with a 5.94 earned-run average last season and was rocked for five runs and five hits in 1 2/3 innings of his first start against the Royals last Saturday, an outing in which he walked two, hit two batters and balked once.

The move will enable the Angels to send Kazmir to the minor leagues for a lengthy rehabilitation stint in hopes of getting some kind of return on their investment this season.

The Angels will also need more production from the offense, which didn't give Santana much room for error Friday night.

The Angels had only seven hits and continued to struggle with runners in scoring position, their two-for-10 performance Friday leaving them with a .208 mark (15 for 72) in the first seven games.

"We're getting opportunities, which is important," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "We have to do a better job in the situational game, but I'm pleased with the say we're setting the table. We're getting opportunities. We're just not cashing in on them."

The Angels had a chance to extend a 2-0 lead in the fifth, when Maicer Izturis led off with a double and Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single.

But Toronto starter Kyle Drabek buzzed through the heart of the Angels order, striking out Bobby Abreu, getting Torii Hunter, who hit a run-scoring single in the third, to pop out to second and striking out Vernon Wells.

After Abreu walked to lead off the eighth, Hunter swung at reliever Shawn Kemp's first pitch, grounding into a double play, and Wells flied to deep right.

Wells, who was acquired from Toronto in January, is now batting .097 (three for 31) with 10 strikeouts and one walk in seven games with his new club. He hit .273 with 31 homers and 88 runs batted in last season.

"You can't put the first week on one guy," Scioscia said. "Vernon obviously hasn't hit stride. I think he's pressing a bit, but there's a lot of baseball left, and he's going to have a big year for us. He's just missing some pitches."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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