Nix's 8th-inning HR leads Blue Jays past Angels
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Although the Toronto Blue Jays exchanged hugs and handshakes with Vernon Wells around the batting cage before the game, they didn't exactly help their former outfielder make a good impression on his new home fans.
Jayson Nix hit a tiebreaking two-out homer in the eighth inning, and the Blue Jays spoiled the Los Angeles Angels' home opener with a 3-2 victory Friday night.
Adam Lind hit a tying two-run double in the sixth inning as Toronto improved to 5-2 after Ervin Santana held them hitless into the fifth.
When the Blue Jays' bats finally awoke, their pitchers also went to work, with rookie starter Kyle Drabek and his bullpen holding the Angels to one hit in their final 16 at-bats.
"I'm really happy to be a part of this group," said Nix, who joined the Blue Jays in a trade with Cleveland just 10 days ago. "We've got a good thing going on here, and everybody is in it together."
Wells had a forgettable home debut against the club that traded him to the Angels last winter, stranding five runners while going 0 for 4 with four inning-ending outs.
Wells spent most of the past 12 seasons with Toronto before the Blue Jays unloaded his seven-year, $126 million contract on the Angels, who missed out on the offseason's big-name free agents. So far it's been an ugly transition to the West Coast: Wells got off to a 3-for-27 start with Los Angeles during its season-opening six-game road trip, and he twice struck out with two runners on base Friday night.
"I don't think you can put this week on one guy," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Vernon obviously hasn't hit stride. I think he's pressing a little bit. He's had some good swings in the first week, but he's not hitting the way he can. He's just not in the comfort zone in the box yet, but he will be."
Although Wells remains close friends with several Blue Jays, several current regulars and manager John Farrell weren't even with the reconfigured club last season.
"You're never really going to reach people's expectations no matter what you do," Wells said before the game. "I've been through worse than this at the start of a season."
After Drabek allowed six hits over six innings for Toronto, Octavio Dotel (1-0) pitched a hitless seventh one day after coming off the disabled list, and Jon Rauch pitched the ninth for his second save.
Drabek, the touted son of pitcher Doug Drabek, pitched seven innings of one-hit ball for his first major league victory last weekend. He wasn't quite so sharp in Anaheim, walking three of his first six hitters — including Bobby Abreu, who scored when Nix mishandled Bautista's excellent throw to third base on Hunter's single.
"For a young guy, he doesn't fear anyone that steps into the box," Farrell said of Drabek. "That can be good, and that might work against you in certain situations. But because he is armed with such quality stuff, he's got the ability to get guys out in the strike zone."
Santana (0-1) retired Toronto's first 13 batters, and yielded six hits in eight solid innings for the Angels. Torii Hunter and Howard Kendrick had two hits apiece, but the Angels lost their home opener for just the second time in eight years.
Santana, a 17-game winner last season, was perfect before Aaron Hill's fifth-inning single, but he got little support — a common theme at Angel Stadium last season. After Lind evened it in the sixth with his two-out double, Nix punched a low liner into the short left-field porch in the eighth.
"That was the mistake on the home run — fastball right down the middle," Santana said. "You expect us to score a lot of runs, but I just worry about my own thing."
Jose Bautista went 1 for 4 and scored a run in the Toronto slugger's return from a three-game absence for the birth of his first daughter. Juan Rivera went 2 for 4 in his first game back against the Angels, who traded him to Toronto in the deal for Wells.
Hunter drove home Maicer Izturis with a two-out single in the third, and Santana flummoxed the Blue Jays into the fifth inning with ample help from Peter Bourjos, who ran down three tough catches in center field.
NOTES: The Angels wore their 1980s throwback uniforms. Eli Grba, the Angels' first pick in the 1960 expansion draft and the starter in the franchise's first game, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The franchise is bringing back 81 former Angels to throw out the first pitches at home games during its 50th anniversary season. ... Los Angeles once hoped Joel Pineiro would start the home opener, but he's still out with tightness in his shoulder. Pineiro did a long-toss session Thursday and could move up to the bullpen this weekend. ... Blue Jays OF Corey Patterson had four at-bats for Class-A Dunedin on Thursday, and Farrell said he showed "no ill effects" after getting hit in the head by a pitch late last month. He's eligible to return to the Blue Jays on Sunday.