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LAA@TOR: Angels challenge call after sac fly

TORONTO -- In two high-leverage spots late in Friday's contest, the Blue Jays intentionally walked Albert Pujols to get to Raul Ibanez.

The second time, it cost Toronto the game.

Ibanez hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth, and Ernesto Frieri retired the side in order in the bottom half of the frame to propel the Angels to a 4-3 series-opening victory over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.

"You prepare, do all this work, and you feel like you're supposed to get the job done," said Ibanez, who walked three times and recorded his first stolen base since 2012. "When you don't, you're disappointed, and when you do, you help the team. That's really the most important thing.

"I have a job to do, which is get the guy in, and that's what happened."

Erick Aybar hit a leadoff triple off Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil (0-3) to start the ninth, his third extra-base hit of the game, and Mike Trout reached on an error to put two on with none out. The Blue Jays then intentionally walked Pujols for the second time of the game to get to Ibanez, and the designated hitter's sac fly allowed Aybar to score from third without a throw to give the Halos a 4-3 lead.

In the seventh inning, a similar situation unfolded.

Aybar hit a one-out single before Toronto put Pujols on to get to Ibanez. That plan also backfired, as Toronto reliever Sergio Santos lost a six-pitch battle to walk Ibanez, which prompted a pitching change. Steve Delabar, who entered for Santos, walked Howie Kendrick on four straight pitches with the bases juiced, allowing the Angels to go ahead, 3-2.

Ibanez, a 19-year veteran, has played this game long enough to not feel slighted by Toronto's strategy.

"I'm not emotional about it; Albert is a great hitter and I'm just looking to get the job done," Ibanez said. "Just trying to focus on stuff that deals with your emotions. I didn't have any emotional response at all."

Frieri worked a clean ninth, punching out the final two batters to record his fourth save.

It was a strong bounce-back performance for him after he allowed a ninth-inning homer in a 4-3 loss to the Yankees his last time out.

Frieri, who opened the season as the Angels' closer, temporarily lost his job to Joe Smith, and it now appears the duo will split duties depending on the matchup. The 28-year-old Frieri said he doesn't care about being designated as the team's closer. He just wants to win.

"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, it doesn't matter what situation."

The Angels' ninth-inning rally was only necessary after Smith, who was credited with his second win, surrendered a homer to Jose Reyes -- his third blast of the year -- in the eighth to make it a 3-3 game.

Angels starter Garrett Richards was only at the 95-pitch mark after seven innings, but the club believed Smith was the right arm to turn to with the top of Toronto's lineup -- Reyes, Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista -- due up.

The plan ultimately didn't work out, but there was no second-guessing from bench coach Dino Ebel, who is filling in as the club's manager until Sunday.

"That's what we did and that was the game plan going in," Ebel said. "[Pitching coach Mike] Butcher and I talked about it before the game even started that if we got late in the game, seventh or eighth innings, and those guys were coming up, then we were going with Smith, and that's what we did."

Richards had command issues early, throwing three wild pitches in the first three innings to give him a Major League-leading seven on the season. Toronto scored its first two runs off the wild pitches, but Richards was able to get into a groove after that.

He responded by throwing seven innings of two-run ball, while walking two and striking out six. It was Richards' fifth quality start and sixth time he has struck out at least six batters.

"I was a little soggy today, but I just wanted to come out and give us a chance to win and try to as deep into the game as possible," said Richards, who remains unbeaten after seven starts. "I started figuring out a little bit more feel in the third inning and started settling down a little bit. We got a win and that's all that matters."

Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan lasted five innings, allowed two runs on seven hits, walked two and struck out a pair. He labored through most of the contest, but the Angels were largely unable to capitalize against him.

The Angels scored their first run against McGowan on an RBI single from Collin Cowgill, which scored Efren Navarro from second. Navarro, who was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake prior to the game, doubled in his first two at-bats of the season.

Trout scored Los Angeles' second run an inning later when he crushed McGowan's 1-0 offering to dead center field for his seventh homer to put the Angels in front, 2-1.

"You've got to be careful with them," McGowan said. "There's no letdown at any point and they keep you on your toes the whole time."

Los Angeles, which improved to 3-8 in one-run games and snapped Toronto's season-high five-game winning streak, has won eight of its last nine games against the Blue Jays.

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