Jesse Chavez has a rule. When he starts, he must pitch at least six innings, or he must stay in the dugout until six innings have been completed.
Rendered temporarily incapable of placing pitches along the strike zone’s edges, the Angels right-hander made it only 3 2/3 innings on the mound Friday night at Marlins Park, then waited it out. At the end of the sixth, he headed to the video room to review the evidence of his failure and uncovered what he thought might be the solution.
“It was a little too late,” Chavez said.
Chavez (4-6) permitted five runs as the Angels lost, 8-5, to Miami. The Marlins entered as losers of 10 of their last 11 home games, but Chavez could not keep them off the basepaths. The Angels, too, produced offense, but in insufficient quantities.
With two outs in the first inning, Mike Trout walked and Albert Pujols lashed a single to left field. Luis Valbuena drove a ball deep to left field for a double off of Marcell Ozuna’s glove. Trout scored. The slow-footed Pujols did not, and Marlins starter Dan Straily (3-3) escaped with allowing only one run when he struck out Martin Maldonado.
The Angels (25-26) next scored in the sixth, when Pujols doubled and Maldonado hit a two-run homer over the center-field wall. Straily pitched aggressively against Angels not named Trout, but twice walked the superstar center fielder. The Angels scored twice more in the ninth, when Straily had long since exited and the game was out of reach. Rookie infielder Nolan Fontana secured his first career hit, a home run.
The Marlins (17-29) scored four times in the first. Chavez allowed a first-pitch single to lead-off hitter Dee Gordon. Playing first base for the third time this season, Pujols then mishandled a Chavez pickoff attempt, and Gordon took second. The next batter, the prodigiously powerful Giancarlo Stanton, worked the count to 3 and 2, received a changeup at his knees, and crushed it 460 feet to the batter’s eye in center field for a home run.
“He did ‘Stanton’ to it,” Chavez said. “He dented it.”
Miami scored again in the second. With one out, Straily lined a ball back at Chavez for a single off of his shin and Gordon doubled in the gap. With two out, Chavez intentionally walked Yelich and unintentionally walked Ozuna.
He couldn’t finish four innings, forcing Angels manager Mike Scioscia to deploy a bevy of relievers. Down five runs and wary of overworking middle relievers, he turned to rested closer Bud Norris for the eighth inning. Three pitches in, Norris grimaced and exited with a sore right knee. The 32-year-old right-hander said he was unconcerned and convinced he could remedy it with treatment.
“Some days your body just doesn’t wake up the way you want it to,” Norris said. “I don’t expect to miss any time.”
The Angels expected Maldonado to be fit to play Saturday after his left thumb bent back during a play at the plate in the eighth. He underwent precautionary X-rays, the results of which were not immediately known.
With Friday’s first pitch, Chavez earned a $100,000 bonus. He’ll earn escalating bonuses with additional starts and can collect a total of $2.5 million if he stays healthy and remains in the rotation all season. That figure is on top of his $5.75 million base salary.
The Angels plan to introduce veteran right-hander Doug Fister, and perhaps injured left-hander Tyler Skaggs, into their rotation in June. Chavez’s spot is not secure.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura
9:30 p.m.: This article was updated with quotes.