There was a time not long ago when Angels pitcher Trevor Cahill was thought of as a groundball specialist. His 54.9% career groundball rate entering Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners was the fourth-highest among active starting pitchers.
On the flip side, he ranked 31st among the same pitchers with a home-runs-per-nine-innings rate of 0.9, according to Fangraphs.
The calendar hasn’t even flipped to May, so it would be premature to strip Cahill of that title after only five starts in an Angels uniform. But Cahill rarely has resembled that pitcher so far this season. His struggles were magnified in the Angels’ 6-5 loss to the Mariners at Angel Stadium.
“I feel like maybe a handful of mistakes they haven’t missed this year and a couple of good pitches they’ve hit out too and then it’s more home runs,” said Cahill, who has allowed eight homers in 26-1/3 innings. “It’s just like couple of swings. I feel like I’ve thrown less bad pitches than I did last year. I just didn’t get hurt on it. Just how baseball is.”
Mitch Haniger lofted Cahill’s sinker down the left-field line for a leadoff homer in the first inning. After striking out the next two batters, Cahill threw a cutter over the plate to Daniel Vogelbach. The designated hitter crushed it into the right-field seats.
Cahill conjectured after his previous start that his attempt to be more aggressive in the strike zone has led to some collateral damage. But to pick on only him would be unfair. Only the Baltimore Orioles (57), Milwaukee Brewers (38) and Boston Red Sox (37) have surrendered more home runs than Angels pitchers, who have given up 35.
“It’s been an issue across the board and something we need to address,” Ausmus said.
Albert Pujols sent his third homer of the season over the wall in left-center in the ninth inning, putting him in sole possession of fifth place on the all-time RBI list with 1,993, ahead of Babe Ruth, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pujols passed Ruth only according to baseball’s official starting point for the statistic. RBIs weren’t an official stat until 1920, and Ruth’s career began in 1914.
The Angels still lost their sixth game in a row. They lost five in a row at the beginning of April.
“The reality is, you have so many guys who have been in this situation before,” Pujols said. “It’s not like you have a bunch of young kids here. I think you have a mix of veteran guys. It’s been rough. But I think the best thing is to let it happen right now rather than later on in the season, when you don’t have time to make up or catch up on that ground. … Unfortunately we’ve hit a couple of bad stretches here early in the year. But it’s still so early. I think the main thing is to stay focused and know that, when things click, we’re going to be where we want to be.”
It’s early yet. There’s no reason for dread to infiltrate the clubhouse when 141 games remain on the schedule.
Plus, there were some positive developments Saturday night. Andrelton Simmons, who started the season in a seven-for-38 slump, had three hits to raise his batting average 21 points to .274. Zack Cozart, who has slogged through a month-long drought, stroked a single to left for his first Angel Stadium hit of the season in the eighth inning and had a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
Perhaps if Cahill had been a little more effective, the Angels’ offense might have had a fighting chance.
Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi, an alumnus of the same high school that Shohei Ohtani attended in Japan, gave up a season-high 10 hits in five innings. Only three of the hits scored runs.
Pujols roped a third-inning double to score Simmons. In the fifth, Simmons scored on Jonathan Lucroy’s single to right. Two batters later, Brian Goodwin shot a groundball down the first base line that rolled into the corner for a two-out triple. Kevan Smith scored from first, cutting the Mariners’ lead to 5-4.
The Angels could have gotten closer, but Peter Bourjos ended both of their best threats: In the fifth, he grounded out and stranded Goodwin at third. With the bases loaded in the seventh, Bourjos struck out against reliever Zac Rosscup.
“I am feeling better at the plate,” said Bourjos, who has three hits in 12 at-bats this homestand. “Tonight, obviously, I didn’t get the job done with runners in scoring position. But I don’t feel like I’m far off.”