The Angels made no noise in a 3-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night, as Corey Kluber threw a three-hit shutout against them in Progressive Field, but they made plenty of news after the game.
Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic, citing unidentified major league sources, reported that Scioscia, baseball’s longest-tenured manager, is expected to step down at the end of the season, when his 10-year, $50-million contract expires.
Scioscia, in his 19th season with the Angels, left the stadium by the time the report was posted and could not be reached for comment. General manager Billy Eppler declined to comment.
Scioscia and Eppler, who appear to have a much better working relationship than Scioscia and former GM Jerry Dipoto, agreed last winter to table any job talks until after the season, and Scioscia has said little publicly about his contract status all year. The Athletic indicated that Scioscia is not being pressured to step down.
Scioscia, who turns 60 in November, has built a Hall-of-Fame worthy resume, leading the Angels to the 2002 World Series title, six division titles and the AL championship series in 2005 and 2009. He ranks 18th on the all-time managerial win list with 1,625 victories.
But the Angels have reached the postseason only once in eight years, they haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, and they are nearing the end of another disappointing, injury-plagued season, falling to 55-57 and 11 games back in the AL wild-card race after Saturday night’s loss.
If Scioscia steps down, Eppler would have three in-house candidates to replace him in former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and former Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez, who are special assistants to the GM, and Josh Paul, the former big-league catcher who is in his first season as an Angels bench coach.
Paul, who played with the Angels in 2004 and 2005, has not managed above the Class-A level, and Chavez has never managed.
The Scioscia story overshadowed a strong start by Angels right-hander Felix Pena, who no-hit the Indians for five innings before cracking in the sixth, when he gave up a leadoff homer to Leonys Martin, a double to Francisco Lindor and an RBI single to Michael Brantley for a 2-0 Indians lead.
That was all the offense Kluber would need. The two-time Cy Young Award winner blanked the Mike Trout-less Angels for his seventh career shutout. Kluber (14-6) struck out seven, walked one, and of his 98 pitches, 64 were strikes.
“Corey is tough,” Scioscia said. “We had some chances early, but he does so many things with the ball. We had guys on, but we couldn’t get that hit to get us on top. He pitched a great game, obviously.”
The Angels’ best chance came in the third when Eric Young Jr. doubled with one out and Kole Calhoun walked. Justin Upton, who is zero for nine with six strikeouts in the series, flied to right, and Shohei Ohtani grounded out.
Ohtani, who had four hits, including two homers, in Friday night’s win, was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts.
“He did a good job moving the ball to both sides of the plate, and he got under his swing a bit,” Scioscia said. “Corey was tough on all of us, and he pitched Shohei tough, too.”
Pena retired one batter in last Sunday’s start against Seattle, giving up seven runs on six hits and two walks in an 8-5 loss that taxed the bullpen for 8 2/3 innings.
He appeared headed for another rocky start when he walked two and threw three times as many balls (18) as strikes (six) in the first inning Saturday night. But Pena escaped the jam and, after a little front-end alignment, retired eight straight from the first through third innings.
“It had to do with mechanics,” Pena, speaking through an interpreter, said of his first-inning struggles. “I was not facing the catcher. I was not straight. I was a little sideways. In the second inning, I started facing him, and that’s when I found my release point.”
Watching from the railing in the first-base dugout was Trout, the Angels center fielder and two-time AL most valuable player who missed his third straight game because of a right-wrist injury. He is questionable for Sunday’s series finale.