ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tampa Bay Rays closer Grant Balfour arrived at Angel Stadium on Friday afternoon with his focus on Friday’s game and not on what happened Thursday night. Everyone else, though, wanted to talk about Thursday night.
“I didn’t even want to come and talk about it,” Balfour said. “It’s stirring the pot for whoever wants to talk about it. I don’t care to talk about it. It hasn’t affected me.”
Balfour did talk about the ninth inning of Thursday’s 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that ended with Mike Trout’s walk-off, three-run homer off Brad Boxberger.
Boxberger was pitching because Balfour, called on to protect a three-run lead, didn’t get an out. He walked the Angels’ No. 8 and 9 hitters, then allowed a ground-ball single through the right side of the infield that scored a run.
With Trout coming up, Maddon pulled his closer, even though Trout was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts in his career against Balfour. Maddon said Balfour was pitching like he did earlier this year in Chicago, when he allowed five ninth-inning runs. Maddon said he thought Boxberger could strike out Trout and on-deck hitter Albert Pujols.
Maddon said before Friday’s game that he has not lost faith in Balfour. He would just like Balfour to be more Balfour, trust his low-90s fastball and attack hitters.
“He’s way too much under control,” Maddon said. “I haven’t seen the same assertive Grant, and I just want to get him to be more assertive, trust himself, those type of things.”
Balfour said after the game that he knows he has not been the shutdown closer that he was the past two seasons in Oakland. He knows he’s walking too many batters — 14 in 151⁄3 innings.
Before Friday’s game, Balfour said he had put Thursday behind him.
“I’m not worrying about the past,” Balfour said. “I’ve done that to myself in this game, and I kind of held on to it for a couple of games in Chicago. I told myself, ‘Why?’ Am I entitled to a bad game? I’ve had six years where I’ve been solid, as good as anyone in the game consistent-wise. Maybe I’m entitled to having a bad month? Is that the way to look at it? Who knows? It’s a tough game sometimes. I’ve had a couple off games. I’m more (mad) than anyone else about it.”
Balfour said he was focusing on the positives from Thursday. He was ahead of both batters he walked and did get a grounder that he thought was a double-play grounder, but second baseman Sean Rodriguez was playing closer to second base than Balfour expected and the ball scooted through the infield and into right field.
“I’ve moved on,” Balfour said. “I’m tired of stressing out about this game. I told myself this year I’m not going to let this game stress me out. I’ve done it for too many years.”
Maddon said he wanted to get Balfour back in a game as soon as possible. He said pulling Balfour on Thursday in the middle of the ninth inning could be a wake-up call for the closer.
“Actually, I really believe what happened last night is going to serve to make us and him better,” Maddon said. “It’s one of those reverse lessons to be learned. ... He’s better than that. He knows that. I have all the confidence in the world in him. I want him to have more confidence in himself. That’s going to be the lesson.”