TORONTO - A.J. Burnett used "Hangin' Tough" by New Kids On The Block for his warm-up music Thursday night and sees in that unfortunate boy band hit a theme for the Toronto Blue Jays.
No joke, even though it started out as one.
"I was just looking for something different. I found it," Burnett said after throwing six solid innings in a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels. "It was just a little joke that me and B.J. (Ryan) decided to come out with something, he suggested that and we've stuck with it.
"Why not? We're hanging tough right now, we're going to get on a roll here soon, so hang tough."
While his teammates are ready to embrace the message, the song is another matter. Lyle Overbay, whose timely solo shot in the sixth inning provided the margin of victory, called Burnett "a dork" for requesting it while Ryan, who collected his 10th save with a perfect ninth, wanted no part of the credit for it playing.
"That is not my suggestion," Ryan declared with a grin. "That is all him. I might have encouraged it a little bit from the peanut gallery, but that is all him right there."
Rather than just hanging tough, the Blue Jays (24-25) hope to use their upcoming four-game series with the visiting Kansas City Royals as a means to make a push after avoiding a three-game sweep against the AL West leaders.
Timely hits have been few and far between this season and home runs even rarer, so they'll need more strokes like Overbay's to make it happen.
"Instead of falling back down three games below you pull back into one, that's big," said manager John Gibbons. "When you're a few games over .500, you have a little breathing room, things are much easier, you lose a few games and you still have your head above water. But when you're battling to get to .500, you lose a few and it's right back down to ground zero."
They nearly took a step backwards Thursday, as the Angels (28-21) had just finished erasing a 3-0 deficit against A.J. Burnett (5-4) in the top half of the sixth when Overbay came to the plate in the bottom of the inning. He quickly restored the lead by crushing a 2-2 slider from Ervin Santana (6-2) into the right-field seats before a crowd of 22,007.
Nine of the last 17 hits by the first baseman, who is still seeking to regain the consistent stroke he had during a big 2006, have gone for extra bases.
"It's getting there, I still don't think I'm where I need to be," said Overbay. "It seems like I don't get a lot of pitches to hit, and when I do, I end up fouling them off. I hadn't put a good swing on a slider in a while, so that was good for the confidence."
It was just the 31st homer of the season for the Blue Jays, who started the day 12th of the 14 AL teams in both the longball and slugging percentage. They also opened play last in the majors with a .221 average with runners in scoring position, three figures that must change if they're to ease the load on their pitchers.
The four runs was just enough on this night, as Jesse Carlson, Scott Downs and Ryan each threw a scoreless inning to close things out.
"We got a good bullpen down there, man," said Ryan. "You're grateful to have guys like Downsie and Jesse and everybody's stepping up and answering the bell for us."
They could have done it with a lot less drama, as the Blue Jays had a chance to bury the Angels when they loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but came away with just one run on Rod Barajas' single that made it 3-0. Marco Scutaro popped out before Joe Inglett, who moments earlier had ripped a ball into the right-field stands just foul, grounded out to strand three.
The Angels proceeded to make it a ballgame.
Their first two batters reached to open the fifth but Burnett looked like he was out of trouble when Brandon Wood hit into a double play. Instead, Sean Rodriguez and Maicer Izturis followed with back-to-back doubles to make it a one-run game.
"The cutter to Rodriguez was a really stupid pitch," said Burnett. "I didn't throw any warming up and 70 pitches in I decided to throw one, so that's when I really struggled a little bit."
The lead disappeared in the sixth when Torii Hunter worked a two-out walk, moved to third on Casey Kotchman's single past a diving Overbay at first and scored on Jeff Mathis' base hit.
The Blue Jays went up 2-0 in the third when Scutaro scored on a triple by Inglett, who later came home on a single by Brad Wilkerson.
"It was a good ballgame," said Burnett. "We battled, they scored some runs for me and Lyle got the big hit. That's a good win."
Notes: Jays manager John Gibbons said Stairs' neck injury wasn't serious and shouldn't keep him from the lineup long. ... Angels infielder Chone Figgins was given the night off after waking up sore from the night before. Figgins (right hamstring) came off the DL Wednesday and played in the 4-3 win. ... Santana was starting in place of Joe Saunders who had flu-like symptoms. Manager Mike Scioscia said Saunders would start Friday against the White Sox.