As far as side trips go, the Angels have had better. The only good thing about this detour from Seattle to Wrigley Field is that it’s over.
Trevor Cahill was battered in an 8-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Monday, with the teams making up a game that was postponed April 14 because of snow. The Angels remain frozen below the break-even mark, failing for the fourth time to win a game that would have lifted them to .500.
They finished the extended trip at 5-3 and will open a homestand Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics. It will be their third consecutive game in a different city, after a journey of 4,489 air miles. The makeup game meant flying about 2,500 more miles than they would have if they had returned from Seattle on Sunday
“It’s an inconvenience,’’ said manager Brad Ausmus, who wasn’t complaining. “Truthfully we got in at a relatively decent hour. We were at the hotel a little after midnight. I think everybody got a good sleep. With a 3 o’clock start we didn’t have to get up too early. It’s just a pain having to travel four hours, then 4½ hours back in a 24-hour period. It’s better than getting in at six in the morning.’’
Ausmus said Lester (4-4) was the story of the game but when the Angels talked about an inch here or there they didn’t just mean the calls Lester got from plate umpire Jerry Meals on pitches down in the strike zone. The Angels’ best chance to get back in the game vanished into the tip of right fielder Carlos Gonzalez’s glove, to the delight of 39,843.
Playing his first game for the Cubs, Gonzalez robbed catcher and former Colorado teammate Jonathan Lucroy with the bases loaded in the seventh inning. The three-time Gold Glove winner turned his back to the plate and ran to the edge of the warning track before grabbing the opposite-field drive that drove in Mike Trout.
“He killed me,’’ said Lucroy. “He’s a good dude. He made a heckuva play right there. I needed that knock … he made a great play. It’s not too much of a surprise.’’
The game fell apart for Cahill and the Angels in the sixth inning, thanks largely to doubles grounded just inside the bags by Javier Baez (third base) and Jason Heyward (first base). It didn’t help that in between those hits — Heyward’s was against reliever Justin Anderson — center fielder Trout missed an ankle-high grab of a sinking liner from Willson Contreras.
First base umpire Ron Kulpa had to do a pirouette to avoid Heyward’s rip down the line, which prompted Ausmus to leave the dugout for a quick discussion about a possible review. That talk, like most things the Angels did in the game, led nowhere.
“That ball Jason hit down the line was barely fair, from my angle,’’ Lucroy said. “[Gonzalez] made that play in the outfield. An inch or two here or there, he might not make that play [on me] and that might have been a foul ball [by Heyward]. That’s just kind of the way the game went today.’’
Trout was nursing a tight groin when the Angels visited Wrigley in April. He wouldn’t have played in a game then, so his availability Monday was a plus for the Angels.
“That’s true,’’ Ausmus said. “But we’re missing Andrelton Simmons now. It’s an imperfect world and an imperfect schedule.’’
The Cubs wound up scoring five runs in the sixth inning, which began as Cahill started his third time around the lineup. Cam Bedrosian had worked a perfect first inning, with Ausmus using an opener in front of Cahill for the first time, so Baez was the first Cubs hitter Cahill faced three times.
Ausmus’ reasoning for using Bedrosian in front of Cahill was uncomplicated.
“See if we can get some more length out of him, simple as that,’’ he said.
But Cahill was gone with only one out in the sixth inning, having given up five runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings. He has worked more than five innings only once in his last nine outings after lasting six in each of his first three starts.
Ausmus felt Cahill pitched better than the results showed but the 31-year-old right-hander is clearly worried about an ongoing pattern. He fell to 2-6 and his ERA climbed to 7.18.
“I’ve been concerned for a long time,’’ Cahill said. “But all I can do is keep going and keep working, trying to get outs. It’s literally all I can do. I don’t know what else I can do. There’s not a magic answer.’’
Cahill accepted Ausmus’ decision to start Bedrosian with an attempt at humor.
“It was fine,’’ he said. “I’ve come out of the bullpen before. I didn’t like jogging in that far but my first inning, my warmups felt good. I thought it would have thrown me off more but it felt good.’’
A little rest probably won’t feel bad, either.
Correspondent Phil Rogers is a long-time baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune.