Frustration has a new face for the Angels. It looks like Ricky “Long Ball” Nolasco.
Nolasco is the Angels right-hander who can look near brilliant one moment and in the next like a pitcher who can never surrender a hit that doesn’t leave vapor trails behind it.
Nolasco tried for the ninth time to win for the first time since April 27 and for the ninth time failed, the Angels falling to the Kansas City Royals 7-2 on a warm Thursday night in Anaheim.
He was not helped along by a non-supportive offense, but neither did he do much for his own cause, giving up five runs on 10 hits — almost all well struck — and walking two in six-plus innings.
Two of the hits were home runs, continuing a troubling theme to his season. He has given up an American League-high 21 home runs.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Nolasco said. “Those two balls just snuck out today. It’s something that really hasn’t been an issue my whole career but for some reason this year it is. I just have to make better pitches.”
Nolasco fell to 2-8, his ERA climbing to 5.01. All five Angels currently in the rotation have an ERA of more than 4.00.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia blamed Nolasco’s troubles on an inconsistent release point.
“He’s missed a lot of spots,” Scioscia said. “Those misses where he’s trying to go away and leaving it over the heart of the plate, guys have had pretty good swings at those.”
Meanwhile, the Angels could do little with Matt Strahm. If that’s an unfamiliar name, that is understandable.
Strahm is a 25-year-old left-hander who was making the first start of his career after 41 relief appearances. He looked like a veteran starter against the Angels.
Strahm (2-3) went five innings, giving up one run on three hits and walking one. He struck out three and benefited from a seeming Danny Espinoza solo homer being overturned from a video review in the fifth. The ball was foul.
A 21st-round draft pick by the Royals in 2012, Strahm threw a career-high 68 pitches. The only run the Angels scored against him came in the first on a bloop single by Albert Pujols.
But Nolasco gave up RBI doubles to Alex Gordon and Whit Merrifield in the second and the Angels never led again.
After all the excitement in their comeback victory against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, the Angels went rock-a-bye quiet Thursday. A regular New York hangover.
The offense stalling, Nolasco gave up a solo home run to Lorenzo Cain in the third and another to Gordon in the fourth.
“I was trying to find a way to grind it and get it to that seventh inning,” Nolasco said. “Just keep grinding. That’s all you can do.”
When he gave up a leadoff single to Cain in the seventh, he was finished. Reliever Jose Alvarez did not help the cause, giving up four hits in the inning and allowing three more runs to score.
“[Nolasco] was behind a lot of hitters,” Scioscia said. “They were on a lot. They had a lot of traffic out there. He battled to get through six but he’s just not quite where he needs to be.”
Yunel Escobar singled in a sixth-inning run, and the Angels’ offense was finished.
The Royals finished with 15 hits. Seven went for extra bases.