It’s another rough outing for Angels and Joe Saunders
Joe Saunders was bewildered by his previous start, when he gave up five earned runs and six hits in 22/3 innings of a loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
“It was one of those weird nights where maybe I bit my fingernail the wrong way or something,” Saunders said. “My sinker wasn’t sinking. My pitches weren’t doing what they were supposed to do.”
Those pitches refused to cooperate with Saunders again Tuesday night, leaving the Angels left-hander perplexed and perturbed but undeterred.
Saunders gave up three runs and nine hits in five innings of a 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians in Angel Stadium, walking three and striking out two during a highly inefficient 104-pitch outing.
He is 1-4 with a 5.74 earned-run average and a mere shadow of the pitcher who was 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA and was selected to the American League All-Star team in 2008 and followed that with a 16-7, 4.60 ERA in 2009 despite pitching much of the season with a knot in his throwing shoulder.
“It’s tough to swallow. I’ve never been 1-4 in my life,” Saunders said. “But I’m going to stay positive. I’m going to give 195,000% every day out there. Tomorrow is a new day. The sun is going to come up, burn through the marine layer and we’ll go from there.”
Manager Mike Scioscia is convinced Saunders is sound, that his “arm speed and stuff look good,” but Saunders was constantly behind in the count Tuesday night, and only 59 of his pitches were strikes.
But when asked if he has lost his command, Saunders seemed a little obstinate.
“I feel I can throw a strike whenever I want. It’s a matter of getting ahead of guys,” he said. “When you put hitters in fastball counts, even if you make your pitch, they’re going to hit you hard. I’ve got to focus on getting ahead, executing pitches.”
Cleveland right-hander Mitch Talbot gave up only one run and six hits in 61/3 innings to gain the victory, and he was backed by an offense that pounded out 18 hits against four pitchers.
The lone bright spot for the Angels: Third baseman Brandon Wood, who was batting .087 on Thursday, had his second consecutive three-hit game and hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot in the ninth inning, to push his average to .197.
The line score for Saunders on Tuesday was not as ugly as his last game, against the Tigers. He was actually one inning away from a quality start. But he was also one pitch, one hit, away from disaster in all but the first inning.
If not for double plays that ended the second, third and fourth innings and Wood’s diving stop of Andy Marte’s grounder and throw to first base to end the fifth, Saunders would have given up a boatload of runs.
“I thought I threw some good pitches and was down in the zone early, but for the most part, I was down in the count,” Saunders said. “I struggled to throw strike one, and that hurt me. As everyone saw, it was a battle out there. I gave up three runs in five innings. I tried to give the team a chance to win with the stuff I had.”
Cleveland took a 2-0 lead in the third on Asdrubal Cabrera’s double, Shin-Soo Choo’s run-scoring single and Austin Kearns’ run-scoring double. Kearns’ homer to center in the fifth made it 3-1.
Scioscia replaced Saunders after five innings with right-hander Matt Palmer, who gave up a run on Choo’s single in the sixth.
The Indians then broke the game open with a four-run eighth, Kearns providing the key blow, a three-run double to right field.
The Angels, trailing, 4-1, loaded the bases with one out in the sixth on Torii Hunter’s bunt single and walks to Hideki Matsui and Kendry Morales. But Juan Rivera lined out to left field, and Howie Kendrick lined out to center field.
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