The Angels sent Matt Shoemaker down to triple A 10 days ago after he struggled for the second consecutive start. What he needed to fix to have success in the majors was not complicated, they insisted, but he needed to do it before he pitched here again.
He needed to locate his fastball down in the zone and use it to set up his remaining offerings, particularly his once-great splitter.
"It's in him," Manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday afternoon, as the Angels turned to him to fix their plagued pitching rotation.
It was not on Wednesday night, when Shoemaker finished only four innings, yielding seven hits and four runs and taking his fifth loss of 2016 in the Angels' 5-2 defeat to St. Louis. It was an improvement on his last start, in which he lasted only 21/3 innings, but not by much: He struck out only one of the 20 men he faced.
He worked his way through Wednesday's first inning easily. But, in the second, he walked the first hitter he faced, and yielded singles to the second, third, fourth and fifth — scoring two runs. The sixth and seventh batters of the inning each notched sacrifice flies — scoring two more.
"It happened quick," Scioscia said. "He settled down after that. He definitely showed that his stuff was there, but he couldn't combine it like he usually can."
The runs held up. Facing left-hander Jaime Garcia, the Angels were hitless until the fourth inning, when C.J. Cron launched a two-run home run after Albert Pujols reached base on an error. Kole Calhoun notched their second hit, a single, in the sixth inning, and Pujols had their third in the seventh, another single. Geovany Soto followed with a double to push Pujols to third, but the Angels could not convert the scoring chance. Scioscia said Johnny Giavotella and Shane Robinson expanded their strike zones in the key situation.
They went down without a hit in the eighth and ninth innings, but worked two walks to bring up Giavotella again as the tying run with two outs in the ninth. He lined out against Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.
But, Scioscia said, the source of the loss was not the offense, but again poor starting pitching.
"That's the only way we're going to get this thing rolling in the right direction, controlling that part of the game," he said.
The loss dropped the Angels to 13-20 this season. Their .394 winning percentage is the third-worst in baseball, in front of only Atlanta and Minnesota. Their five-game losing streak is the team's longest since a six-game streak July 28-Aug. 2, 2015.
To make room for Shoemaker, the Angels designated first baseman Ji-Man Choi for assignment. Choi, who had one hit in 24 plate appearances as an Angel, will go through the waiver process. If he clears, Baltimore can accept him back. If the Orioles turn that down, he can return to the Angels organization, likely in triple A. Scioscia said the team would want him to bat more often if retained. … Closer Huston Street played catch again. He has an oblique strain. … Outfielder Craig Gentry, now eligible to return from his stint on the 15-day disabled list for a lumbar strain, resumed baseball activities. He remains at least several days away from being activated.