They can’t all be thrillers. Some games just kind of happen, coming off almost flat, and defying recent history.
The Angels lost to the Houston Astros 5-3 on Sunday without signs of a great comeback, absent any drama, lacking even a hint of suspense.
Matt Shoemaker mostly pitched well, save for a three-run homer Jose Altuve hit during a four-run third inning that pretty much decided the game.
There were two solo home runs from leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar, but otherwise the Angels failed to take advantage of Houston right-hander Mike Fiers’ early struggles (51 pitches in the first two innings) and could never mount the kind of comeback they’d pulled off the previous two nights.
“We made him throw a lot of pitches,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Fiers. “He made some pitches to Yuni [Escobar] to get him out with a couple guys on.
“But we really didn’t pressure him the way we had hoped to. Then the bullpen came in and shut us down. A hit here or there obviously could have swung that game a little differently but we didn’t get them.”
Fiers had yet to win a game in five starts, and early on the Angels appeared poised to inflict some serious damage against him. It just never happened.
Escobar homered in the first, and the Angels pushed across another in the second after Cameron Maybin walked, stole second, took third on catcher Evan Gattis’ errant throw and scored on Martin Maldonado’s two-out single.
When Fiers (1-1) walked struggling Danny Espinosa, the Angels seemed to have him on the ropes, or close to it. Instead, Fiers got Escobar to fly out and then settled down, relatively speaking. He didn’t give up another run until Escobar hit his second solo shot in the fifth.
Shoemaker had been making Angel Stadium everything home should be. He’d pitched there like the ballpark came equipped with slippers and a warm fire, going 6-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his last 11 home starts.
But Sunday he was a tad off, especially in the third. Alex Bregman started his troubles with a double, and after a walk to George Springer, Josh Reddick singled Bregman home.
Up came Altuve, and one pitch later, out went the ball, and the game. Altuve’s fifth home run of the season was driven out near the Angels bullpen in left and gave the Astros a 4-2 lead.
“Pretty frustrating,” Shoemaker said. “Go out there and, for the most part, pitch pretty decent. Pitchers say this a lot, but you arguably win the game if you get that one pitch back.”
Shoemaker (1-2) did not allow another hit until Gattis led off the seventh with a solo home run. That turned out to be Shoemaker’s final pitch.
In his six-plus innings, he was charged with five runs and five hits. He struck out four and walked three.
“He settled down and got through six, but it seemed like he just lost his edge here and there,” Scioscia said. “He really didn’t have that combination of pitches working that we’ve seen when he’s really on.”
A 4-2 deficit going into the bottom of the third hardly seemed the biggest challenge the Angels have faced of late. They struck with a bottom-of-the-ninth rally to beat Houston on Saturday night, and scored four runs in the ninth to force extra innings in a 7-6 loss Friday. Twelve of their 16 victories this year have been of the comeback variety, second in the American League to the Astros’ 14.
There would be none of that Sunday. After missing an opportunity to chase Fiers, they did little against relievers James Hoyt, Will Harris and Ken Giles, managing just two more hits.
In Game 33 of the season, drama had taken the afternoon off.