In a silent, nearly vacant visiting clubhouse at Comerica Park late Wednesday, as the Angels’ first bus back to the team hotel neared its departure time, shortstop Andrelton Simmons fielded a question from a reporter about what the Angels failed to do in their 4-0 loss to Detroit.
“Get hits,” injured outfielder Cameron Maybin interjected upon overhearing the question. “Get on base.”
He did not participate in the game, but his assessment was inarguably accurate. The Angels (30-32) reached first base on five occasions and never second in a putrid performance against Buck Farmer, an inexperienced spot starter.
Their first hit was a second-inning single by Martin Maldonado. Their next hit was Simmons’ two-out single in the third. Their last hit was Albert Pujols’ single to begin the seventh, which Yunel Escobar erased with a double-play groundout on the next pitch.
“It felt a little bit like by the time I looked up, it was the fifth inning,” Simmons said. “We didn’t have real threats. We have to be better. We have to give ourselves chances to drive guys in.”
When Simmons looked up, it was also still light outside. Shadows enveloped the diamond for the first few innings. Maybin, a Tiger in 2016, said Detroit’s positioning along the western edge of the Eastern time zone makes early-innings hitting onerous around the summer solstice.
Farmer fired low-grade fastballs high in the strike zone and the Angels again and again hit them weakly.
“From what I saw, he worked up in the zone,” Simmons said. “A lot of guys just got under them and hit fly balls to the outfield. We just have to be better at either not swinging at those or getting on top of them and hitting line drives.”
Alex Meyer made his 13th career start for the Angels, not five hours away from his Indiana childhood home. His father and other family members drove over for the occasion. His mother has not yet learned to bear the pressure of watching him pitch in person, and so she stayed home.
With two men on, Meyer struck out Victor Martinez and got ahead of J.D. Martinez, 0-2. Maldonado came out of his stance and faked like he was calling for a high fastball. Instead, Meyer fired a sweeping curveball through the strike zone, and J.D. Martinez swung and missed.
Meyer worked around a two-out walk in the second. In the third, he tried to plop in a first-pitch curveball for a strike but lost control and hit Ian Kinsler in the earflap.
“I can’t imagine, when I hit Kinsler, what she was doing,” Meyer later said of his mother. “She’s better off just being in front of the TV.”
Avila next walked, and Cabrera grounded a ball to third that Escobar could have converted into a double play. Planning to quickly touch third and throw over, he couldn’t field the ball cleanly, which earned him an error and loaded the bases without an out. Victor Martinez then grounded into an actual double play, scoring one run.
Meyer continued to walk and strike out batters at a rapid rate. The first substantive hit he gave up came to begin the sixth, Victor Martinez drilling a ball down the right-field line, a double for most anyone except him. When it bounced off the wall to Kole Calhoun, Martinez stayed at first base. He took second when Justin Upton hit a one-out single to left.
Meyer then benefited from a lucky call on a 1-and-2 breaking ball off of the plate. Knowing his night was over, the 27-year-old pumped his fists and walked off the mound after Alex Presley lined out to center.
Meyer threw 101 pitches and struck out nine, each a career high. He walked four and gave up one run, unearned.
“It’s progress,” he said. “I’m getting better.”
Last month, Meyer held the Tigers to one run in 61/3 innings, and he wondered ahead of Wednesday how to best handle a second start against a talented lineup.
“In my mind, I was like, ‘Do I do the same thing I did last time?’” he said. “‘Do I try and adjust that?’”
He wound up doing much of the same.
Yusmeiro Petit, the major league leader in relief innings, pitched a perfect seventh before encountering eighth-inning trouble, punctuated by a three-run Upton home run.