Alex Meyer soundly failed his first test to fit into the Angels’ rotation.
The 6-foot-9 right-hander brought his tantalizing 97-mph fastball into his Thursday night start at Safeco Field, but also the same struggle to command it. Accordingly, he bore the loss in the Angels’ 11-3 loss to Seattle.
“He showed flashes of why we’re excited about him,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said afterward.
Scioscia was then asked what Meyer must do to extend those flashes.
“Right now, that’s the $64,000 question,” he said, referencing a game show that last aired in 1958.
Meyer hit the first man he faced and walked the second, and soon let in a run when Nelson Cruz doubled. Had catcher Juan Graterol not thrown out Jean Segura seeking to steal second, it would have been two. Meyer escaped that inning and again traversed traffic on the basepaths in the second.
In the third inning, he walked the leadoff man, Ben Gamel, and then struck out Robinson Cano and Cruz, a stretch Scioscia referred to as encouraging. Kyle Seager poked a single into left field, and Danny Valencia shot one into the same location to score Gamel. When Ben Revere over-threw home, Valencia took second, and both he and Seager scored on Guillermo Heredia’s subsequent bloop double into right field.
That was four runs. Seattle scored its fifth and sixth in the fourth inning, on a Segura single, Gamel double and Cruz single. Meyer made it no further, as long reliever Daniel Wright entered for the fifth.
Meyer frustrated himself with his fluctuating ability to throw his pitches where he intended, for strikes or for balls. Sometimes, he could. More often, he could not. That trait led to his three walks, and to some of the hits off hanging curveballs in two-strike counts.
“You gotta get ahead early,” Meyer said. “Here’s my fastball for a strike. Here’s my breaking ball. You’ve gotta pound the zone. Otherwise, it puts them in a position where they can swing the bat more comfortably.
“As a pitcher, that’s not what you want.”
A split nail on his throwing hand bothered Meyer during the fourth. Scioscia, pitching coach Charles Nagy, and a team trainer visited him on the mound, but he threw two warm-up pitches to prove he could remain in the game.
The Angels can ill afford another injury to one of their starting pitchers. Meyer himself is replacing left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who is expected to miss at least two months because of an oblique strain. In the continued absence of Garrett Richards, Skaggs represented the best potential for dominance out of any remaining Angels starter. Now, he may miss more time than Richards, and the Angels have few options to replace him beyond Meyer.
Next on the in-house list would be Wright, or, given some time, left-hander Nate Smith, who is mounting a return from a season-opening forearm strain. Although Scioscia would not say the 27-year-old Meyer will start again for certain, Thursday was not likely to be his last chance. If he issues walks at this same rate and remains wild, it’s easy to envision the Angels cutting the tryout short.
The Angels (15-15) had not won or lost by more than three runs in 11 days, and they had not won or lost a game by more than six runs all season. So, Thursday’s rout marked a departure from their modus operandi. They scored twice in the second inning and once in the eighth, when the outcome was already apparent.
Yunel Escobar notched four singles in five tries. But after his first hit, he ran at a leisurely pace on Kole Calhoun’s subsequent grounder, squandering a chance to reach second base safely and save an out when Segura bobbled the ball.
No other Angel reached base more than once. In only his third start of the season, Graterol delivered a single for the early runs. But, on one Cano swing in the Mariners’ half of the third, the catcher sustained two hits. Cano fouled a ball into Graterol’s shoulder, then struck him in the mask on the backswing. He stayed in the game after evaluation.
The Angels were facing the pitcher they could have acquired instead of Meyer nine months ago: Seattle left-hander Ariel Miranda. Baltimore proffered him as the primary piece of a return for left-hander Hector Santiago, whom the Angels traded at the Aug. 1 deadline.
Instead, general manager Billy Eppler opted to acquire Meyer and right-hander Ricky Nolasco in an expanded deal with Minnesota, and Baltimore sent Miranda to Seattle for left-hander Wade Miley.
Miranda, 28, has a 3.54 earned-run average in 89 innings since that trade.