TORONTO (AP) — Tyler Skaggs put a bad start behind him in the best way possible: by carving up his next opponent.
Skaggs pitched into the ninth inning and retired 21 straight batters, leading the Los Angeles Angels over the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Saturday.
Rookie C.J. Cron hit his first major league homer and Chris Iannetta added a two-run shot as Angels won their sixth in a row at Toronto dating to 2012.
Skaggs (3-1), who gave up a season-worst six runs in 2 2-3 innings against Texas in his last start, turned things around with a superb performance against the Blue Jays.
“Outstanding,” said bench coach Dino Ebel, who ran the team for the second straight day while manager Mike Scioscia attended his daughter’s college graduation. “He pitched one heck of a game for us, took us into the ninth inning. Can’t say enough about the kid today.”
Iannetta said he was impressed at the way the 22-year-old Skaggs shrugged off his poor performance against the Rangers.
“Especially being so young, you see guys kind of wear that for a while,” Iannetta said. “He did a really good job of just focusing on executing pitches.”
Skaggs said he never really stewed over his loss to Texas, and was just happy to have his full arsenal of pitches working again.
“The two-seam was a huge pitch, unlike my last start where it wasn’t really working too well,” the left-hander said. “I threw a ton of two-seamers today and they kept grounding it into the ground and popping it up.”
Skaggs gave up two earned runs and four hits, leaving after Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera started the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles.
Skaggs retired Dioner Navarro on a fly ball to end the first inning and didn’t permit another runner until the eighth.
Joe Smith gave up an RBI single to Jose Bautista in the ninth, then got Edwin Encarnacion to ground into a forceout. Navarro made it 5-3 with an RBI single before Smith got pinch-hitter Adam Lind to ground into a double play for his fourth save in six chances.
Making his second start since moving from the bullpen into the rotation last Monday, J.A. Happ (1-1) lasted just 2 1-3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits.
“He got behind on a few counts and they made him pay,” Blue Jays catcher Erik Kratz said.
Skaggs improved to 3-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three road starts as the Angels won for the ninth time in 10 meetings with the Blue Jays. Toronto has lost two straight following a season-best five-game winning streak.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons declined to speak to reporters following the game but did offer a brief statement through a team spokesman, saying “Skaggs was great, he manhandled us.”
Iannetta homered in the second and Cron hit a second-deck drive in the third.
“When he hit it, I got the chills because he crushed it pretty good,” Ebel said of Cron’s powerful blast. “It was great to see him get that head out and put it in the stands.”
Bautista reached on a fielding error by Skaggs in the first and scored on a two-out double by Encarnacion. Skaggs then began his streak of setting down Toronto hitters.
The string almost ended when Iannetta dropped a third strike to Juan Francisco in the eighth, but the catcher made a strong, off-balance throw to first for the out. Steve Tolleson followed with a double.
Happ retired the Angels in order in the first but ran into trouble in the second, when Los Angeles got five hits and scored three times.
NOTES: Scioscia is due to return Sunday. … Toronto failed to hit a home run for the first time in 10 games. … Blue Jays INF Brett Lawrie (right hamstring) missed his fifth straight game. Manager John Gibbons said Lawrie will see time at second base against right-handed starters when he returns, probably Monday, allowing Toronto to keep Francisco in the lineup at third. … Angels RHP Jered Weaver (3-2) faces RHP Drew Hutchison (1-2) in Sunday’s series finale. … Blue Jays reliever Sergio Santos pinch-ran for Navarro in the ninth.
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