TORONTO (AP) - Joe Smith and Ernesto Frieri insist they don’t mind which one of them is called on to pitch the ninth inning for the Los Angeles Angels, even if it means some bullpen mixing and matching from game to game.
Raul Ibanez drove in the tiebreaking run with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, Mike Trout hit a solo home run and the Angels won their fifth straight game in Toronto, beating the Blue Jays 4-3 on Friday night.
Smith returned after a four-game absence to work the eighth, giving up a game-tying homer to Jose Reyes. Frieri, who started the season as the closer before being replaced by Smith, finished it off with a perfect ninth, picking up his fourth save in six chances.
“Whenever they feel like they need me, I’m going to be ready,” Frieri said. “Doesn’t matter what inning, doesn’t matter what situation. I’m a competitor. I just want to compete.”
Smith said he’s equally untroubled about whether he’s the one handling setup duties or nailing down saves.
“I’m going to pitch whenever they need me,” he said. “Whatever helps us win.”
Bench coach Dino Ebel, who is managing the team for two days while Mike Scioscia attends his daughter’s college graduation, said he and pitching coach Mike Butcher decided before the game that Smith would get the call if the top of Toronto’s lineup was due up in the eighth.
Erick Aybar had three hits and scored twice, including the decisive run in the ninth, as the Angels won for the eighth time in nine meetings with the Blue Jays and halted Toronto’s season-best winning streak at five games.
Ibanez called Aybar “an electric player to watch.”
Aybar tripled off Brett Cecil (0-3) to begin the ninth and Trout reached safely when first baseman Encarnacion couldn’t find the bag after taking the throw on Trout’s infield grounder. Albert Pujols was intentionally walked to load the bases for Ibanez.
“After not being out there for a couple of days it felt a little awkward,” Smith said. “I missed with a pitch right down the middle and that’s what happens.”
The Angels tied it in the second when Efren Navarro hit a two-out double and scored on Collin Cowgill’s single.