Angels strip Jordan Walden of closing duties, give job to Scott Downs

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One blown save was all it took for Jordan Walden to lose the Angels’ closer job.

After saving 32 games as a rookie last season Walden didn’t get his first save opportunity until April 20 this year. He converted it, but then coughed up two runs yesterday to blow his second save chance.

And today the Angels announced that he’s been demoted to a seventh- and eighth-inning role with left-hander Scott Downs taking over as closer, although manager Mike Scioscia left open the possibility that the move is temporary.

Scioscia told reporters that Walden “needs to work on things in situations where the game can’t be won or lost on one pitch.”

Walden certainly hasn’t pitched well in the early going, but that seems like a pretty strong reaction to a closer allowing runs in just two of his six outings and it’ll be plenty easy for him to win or lose games on one pitch working a high-leverage setup role too. Of course, pretty strong reactions tend to happen when an expected World Series contender begins the season 6-13 even if Walden took just one of those losses.

Last year right around this time it was Walden who supplanted a struggling Fernando Rodney as the Angels’ closer and the hard-throwing 24-year-old right-hander has a 3.15 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 80 career innings.

Report: Rays acquire Lucas Duda from the Mets

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MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.

Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.

Video: Blue Jays walk off against the Athletics again, this time with a grand slam

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The Blue Jays completed a four-game series sweep against the Athletics on Thursday afternoon and won their second consecutive game in walk-off fashion. Last night, the Jays went into the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 2-0, but a two-run home run by Justin Smoak followed by a solo home run from Kendrys Morales led to a 3-2 walk-off victory.

Thursday’s game was already interesting enough as starter Marcus Stroman, catcher Russell Martin, and manager John Gibbons were all ejected by home plate umpire Will Little. Despite the adversity, the Jays battled the A’s, tying the game at four apiece when Morales blasted a solo home run — his second of the game — in the bottom of the ninth inning. In the 10th inning, A’s reliever Liam Hendriks walked the bases loaded with two outs to bring up Steve Pearce. Pearce worked the count full before pulling a fastball down the left field line for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Jays an 8-4 victory to complete the sweep.

Before Pearce, the last Jays hitter to hit a walk-off grand slam was Gregg Zaun on September 6, 2008 against the Rays, per SportsNet Stats.