A few days ago, the Angels arrived in Texas soaring.
They were getting injured teammate Mike Trout back in the lineup, they had won seven of eight games and they owned a bullpen that had surrendered the second-fewest runs in the major leagues.
Then they ran into the Texas Rangers, a group that had allowed three more runs than it had scored and lost five of seven. Still, all the things the Angels had going for them failed to materialize.
The Angels lost a third consecutive game to the Rangers on Wednesday night at Globe Life Park. Defeated 5-4 by the Rangers, the Angels saw again what can happen when starter Matt Harvey loses the thread.
“I’m still confident,” manager Brad Ausmus said of his starter, who has has allowed 18 earned runs over his last 12 2/3 innings. “Some of the peripheral numbers are still good.”
Harvey had cruised through four innings. He struck out Angels nemesis Joey Gallo twice and retired the red-hot Elvis Andrus each time he came to the plate. He threw his 94-mph fastball where he wanted it and mixed in sliders that missed bats and drew strike calls. Until he issued a six-pitch walk to Shin-Soo Choo in the fourth, Harvey had faced the minimum amount of batters and thrown a manageable 42 pitches in three innings.
The Rangers came out hot in the fifth. Asdrubal Cabrera launched the first of three straight singles and scored on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s hit up the middle. With one out, Choo roped a two-run triple into the right-field corner.
“Made a couple good pitches that were just up a little bit,” Harvey said. “Choo hit one down the line. That’s baseball. Things just aren’t really going my way right now. Other times he may take it or it might go foul. But right now, things are going the wrong way.”
Harvey, who gave up five runs (four earned) and five hits and only one walk in 4 1/3 innings, departed immediately. He watched from the bench as Danny Santana greeted reliever Ty Buttrey with a run-scoring double.
“I think the first four innings show it’s right there,” Harvey said. “But things aren’t clicking on the same cylinder at the same time. It’s frustrating but I have to keep working and push through it.”
The Angels didn’t cash in the opportunities they had against Rangers starter Lance Lynn to absolve Harvey of a loss. Jonathan Lucroy hit an RBI single to center field in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. Andrelton Simmmons slammed a double over the head of Choo in left field that scored a speedy Trout, who had walked two batters earlier, all the way from first base. The Angels loaded the bases with two outs in that inning, but La Stella flew out to end the threat. Lynn escaped the game after 5 2/3 innings with seven hits, three walks and two runs on his ledger.
La Stella hit his fourth home run of the year in the eighth inning to cut the Angels’ deficit to 5-3.
The Angels got even closer in the ninth. After Trout was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Angels first baseman Justin Bour was rung up looking at a 1-and-2 pitch from Rangers closer Jose Leclerc that appeared to arrive low and outside. Bour jawed at home plate umpire Jeremie Rehak and was tossed from the game for his first career ejection.
David Fletcher came home on a fielder’s choice. He was the only of the three runners to score. Despite out-hitting the Rangers 10-6, the Angels stranded 10 runners overall and fell to 8-10 on the season.
“It seems like it happens and happens and happens, and nothing happens,” to fix it, Bour said. “There is obviously no accountability. You are grinding. Mike has a great at-bat. Clearly [Leclerc’s] all over the place. To get rung up on a call like that is obviously very frustrating.”