ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Henderson Alvarez was the latest in a long line of pitchers who have thoroughly confused and frustrated the Los Angeles Angels' lineup.
Alvarez pitched his first major league shutout with a six-hitter, Jose Bautista homered and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Angels 4-0 on Friday night.
Alvarez (2-2) threw just 97 pitches, striking out three and walking one. The 22-year-old right-hander, whose only other appearance at Angel Stadium was in the 2010 All-Star Futures Game, has won back-to-back starts after going winless in his previous nine.
"Right from the first pitch of the game through the 97th one, he stayed in his delivery well and didn't overthrow the baseball," Toronto manager John Farrell said. "And with that sinker, he could neutralize their power and keep the ball on the ground. He's got confidence. Even if he's got two men on base, he's always a pitch away from slowing down any damage with a groundball. We saw his overall composure last year in the 10 starts he made for us, and it continues right now."
Toronto handed Ervin Santana (0-6) his sixth loss in as many starts this season and kept slumping Albert Pujols homerless in a game that took just 2 hours, 10 minutes.
It was the first time in six outings this season that Alvarez did not allow a home run, and batterymate Jeff Mathis had something to do with that. Mathis spent his first seven big league seasons with the Angels before he was traded to Toronto in December.
"I've been with those guys a long time, so I've got a decent feel for them," Mathis said. "But Henderson did a good job executing the plan that we talked about and we were pretty much on the same page. He threw the ball well and mixed his changeup and his slider when he needed to. His sinker was good — he got a lot of early-count groundballs, and that's what kept his pitch count down."
After three consecutive nights of complete-game shutouts at Angel Stadium — a three-hitter by Angels righty Jerome Williams, a no-hitter by teammate Jered Weaver and a series-opening three-hitter by Toronto's Brandon Morrow — Alvarez kept the string alive as he lowered his ERA from 3.62 to 2.83. The complete game was his first in 16 big league starts.
"He knows how to pitch, obviously," Pujols said. "He was mixing his pitches pretty well and had a pretty good idea of what he was doing out there. He was taking some velocity off his fastball. He wasn't just throwing 95, 96 (mph). And he kept the ball down pretty well. We didn't hit too many balls hard."