TORONTO — Hitting a two-run home run just a game after throwing a scoreless inning of relief, Blue Jays designated hitter Kendrys Morales was quick to laugh off any comparisons to Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani.
Morales’s homer and single helped Toronto down the Angels 5-3 on Tuesday to snap a four-game losing skid. Ohtani, who signed with Los Angeles as a free agent in the off-season, has a 4-1 record with 52 strikeouts and a 3.35 earned-run average as a starting pitcher to go along with a .321 batting average, six home runs and 17 RBIs when playing DH on his off days.
“I think he’s from another world,” said Morales through a translator. “I don’t think you can compare anyone to him. I think what he does is something amazing. I don’t think anyone can be compared to him.”
Morales was used to pitch the ninth inning of the Blue Jays’ 9-2 blowout loss to the Athletics on Sunday. That game completed Oakland’s four-game sweep of Toronto.
Although the Blue Jays struggled against the A’s, the series was seemingly a turning point for Morales’s slow start to the season. He has five hits in his past three games. Before that he had six hits in a 20-game stretch. Even with the recent offensive surge, the veteran slugger is hitting just .163 this year.
“I’ve been working, doing the same thing every day, and I was hoping for a day like this to come.” said Morales. “I always kept my head up. I had some soft contact, some hard contact, the ball was just not falling. Today was a good one.”
J.A. Happ (6-3) had another solid outing for the Blue Jays, striking out five while allowing two runs over seven innings, including limiting Ohtani to just a walk. Happ had struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings in Toronto’s 12-1 win over the Mets in New York on May 16.
“It was great to bounce back after a tough series against the A’s there,” said Happ. “Great first inning, caught a couple of breaks, went our way. Put a crooked number up there and then it’s my job to try and keep us in the ballgame and go as deep as I can. Solid game all around.”
Ryan Tepera gave up a run in his one inning of relief before Tyler Clippard came in for his second save of the season.
Russell Martin had two RBIs as part of the Blue Jays’ (23-25) five-run first inning. Teoscar Hernandez started things in that inning with an RBI single. Second baseman Devon Travis was recalled from triple-A Buffalo earlier in the day and went 0 for 3 in his return to the lineup.
Albert Pujols’s single drove in a run for Los Angeles (26-22). Garrett Richards (4-3) pitched five innings, striking out four but giving up five runs on six hits. Noe Ramirez came out of the Angels bullpen for two scoreless innings and Cam Bedrosian also threw a run-free inning.
Hernandez’s single opened the scoring in the first, sending Josh Donaldson in from third. Martin drove in two more runs in the next at bat, reaching second on Chris Young’s fielding error and plating Justin Smoak and Hernandez.
Morales went to deep right field in the next at bat, hitting his fourth home run of the season to give Toronto a 5-0 lead.
“You’re not going to find a better guy (than Morales), a harder worker,” said Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. “He’s a guy that cares about his teammate and really all he wants to do is win. So you feel extra for a guy like that. But he keeps showing up and has a great attitude.”
Pujols’s single scored Mike Trout in the fourth. Andrelton Simmons grounded out to third two hitters later, giving Justin Upton enough time to run home and make it 5-2.
Tepera gave up a double to Martin Maldonado to lead off the eighth inning. Maldonado advanced to third on Young’s groundout and then scored on Ian Kinsler’s sacrifice fly to make it 5-3. Tepera got out of the inning by inducing a Trout flyout.
Clippard came on for the ninth, striking out Upton before inducing pop flies from Pujols and Ohtani.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press