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Angels get swept in Oakland, continue to slump with trade deadline approaching

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Angels manager Joe Maddon argues with home plate umpire during the Angels loss on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The Angels lost 6-0 to the A’s on Tuesday, dropping their fourth game out of five since the All-Star break

Angels lose 6-0 to A’s, get swept in two-game trip to Oakland

Angels right fielder Adam Eaton watches an Oakland A's home run by Matt Olson on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

OAKLAND — During Joe Maddon’s past managerial jobs with the Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago Cubs, some of his club’s most important moments happened in the home ballparks of their division rivals.

“Nothing better than to walk out on the mound at Yankee Stadium, shaking hands at the end of the game; or Fenway,” Maddon said last month. “I had the same experience in St. Louis with the Cubbies.”

The Angels’ second-year manager was trying to make a point.

“I want the same thing to happen in Houston, and it needs to happen in Oakland, where you walk out there after the game, on their field, shaking hands on the mound,” he said. “That’s what we need to get done.”

This week in Oakland, however, his club failed to do so. On Tuesday, they didn’t even come close.

With a 6-0 defeat to the Oakland Athletics, the Angels were swept in a two-game series and suffered their fourth loss in five coming out of the All-Star break — all against division foes above them in the standings.

At 46-48, the Angels are now more than 10 games adrift in the American League West standings and 7 ½ games behind the A’s (55-42) for the second AL wild card spot.

And instead of making up ground and celebrating in an opponents’ venue, they were nudged a little further out of contention with next week’s trade deadline looming.

“Today’s game was not a well-played game, by any means,” Maddon said postgame. “We made some mistakes.”

Like Monday’s loss, Tuesday’s defeat was marked by missed opportunities at the plate, sloppy defense and a blunder from the bullpen.

Offensively, the Angels stranded 10 runners and went 0-for-9 with men in scoring position, suffering their lowest-scoring two-game stretch (they scored just one run on Monday) since their first two games at the RingCentral Coliseum this season back in May.

“We had opportunities,” Maddon said. “We just weren’t able to get the big hit these two games. That’s what happens. They did.”

On the mound, starter José Suarez retired his first 11 batters and gave up only one run through five innings.

But after yielding another run in the sixth, Suarez was pulled with two outs (despite having only thrown 73 pitches) in favor of Mike Mayers, who promptly gave up a double to Ramón Laureano that allowed two inherited runners to score.

“Starting pitching for us was really good,” Maddon said. “The bullpen is when things started to break down.”

Laureano’s double was aided by some sloppy defense too.

After fielding the ball off the wall, left fielder Taylor Ward unsuccessfully tried to throw out Laureano at second instead of hitting the cut-off man, giving Matt Olson — who homered earlier in the day off Suarez and was intentionally walked earlier in the sixth — to race all the home from first.

“This team [in Oakland], they don’t make mistakes, they don’t beat themselves,” Maddon said. “We beat ourselves.”

In the seventh, the A’s tacked on a couple more runs against Junior Guerra to seal the win, finishing their nine-game home slate against the Angels this season with a 7-2 record.

Near the end, frustration boiled over. Before the start of the bottom of the eighth, Maddon was ejected after a heated argument with home plate umpire Bill Miller. Asked about the confrontation afterward, Maddon claimed that Miller had made a comment to one of his players.

“He needed to hear about it,” said Maddon, who declined to comment on what Miller said and to which player it was directed. “No different than good parenting.”

But entering an off-day on Wednesday, Maddon will have plenty of other issues to worry about as well.

His team is still struggling to climb in the standings. They’re running out of time to prove they shouldn’t be sellers at the deadline. And while he has maintained belief in his group, they have yet to rediscover the same winning magic his past clubs achieved.

This week offered a chance at changing that narrative. With two lackluster losses, they continued to feed their underachieving storyline instead.

“I’ll defend our effort,” Maddon said. “But we just have to be better. We have to be able to finish those things off.”

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Shohei Ohtani pitches scoreless gem, but Angels falter late in 4-1 defeat to A’s

Shohei Ohtani pitched six scoreless innings, but the Angels lost to the Oakland A's. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
(ASSOCIATED PRESS)

OAKLAND — Monday was a good night if you were a Shohei Ohtani fan.

The two-way star pitched six scoreless innings, striking out eight while yielding just three hits and one walk. He hit a double in his second at-bat. And for the sixth time this year, he played in the outfield as well, spending the seventh inning in right in order to get an extra trip to the plate.

It was maddening, however, if you were an Angels fan too, the team squandering Ohtani’s gem in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland A’s.

Three batters after Ohtani left a scoreless game, the Angels immediately fell behind, as reliever Steve Cishek walked two batters before giving up a decisive, three-run homer to Ramón Laureano.

Matt Olson tacked on an insurance blast in the eighth, and an Angels rally ended in the ninth on a long, running catch in foul ground by Matt Chapman.

It wasn’t the first time such a script — Ohtani playing great, the Angels losing anyway — had played out this year and provided another example of why the team with the clear-cut favorite for American League MVP is 46-47 with the trade deadline less than two weeks away.

“If we can get on a bit of a roll, it changes the narrative regarding what can happen at the end of this month or not,” manager Joe Maddon said. “We want to get that going.”

Monday, they missed an opportunity to do so. Here are three observations from the game.

Ohtani’s scoreless start

Over 14 starts on the mound this season, Ohtani has shown different ways to navigate a lineup. Sometimes, he leans heavily on a fastball-splitter combination. Other times, his slider can be his most dominant pitch. Lately, he’s incorporated a steady diet of cutters too.

On Monday, used a little bit of everything, his approach morphing as the game went on, from a combination of sliders and cutters to a string of upper-90s fastballs to a sprinkling of curveballs and splitters at the end.

“He’s inventive,” Maddon said. “Game-in-progress, he started doing different things based on what he thought they may be expecting. His velocity was way up. Slider good, cutter good. And eventually found the split at the very end. Just another special performance on his part.”

Ohtani, speaking through his interpreter, added: “It’s how I’m feeling during the game, which pitches are working. That factors in a lot.”

Only twice did Ohtani get into trouble, after giving up doubles in the second and third innings. But both times, he dialed up the velocity, unleashing upper-90s heaters (he maxed out at 99.3 mph) to help retire all four batters he faced with a runner in scoring position.

It was the first time this year he pitched six scoreless innings, the 11th time he’d given up two earned runs or fewer, and he lowered his ERA to 3.21.

Yet, the Angels still lost, dropping to only 8-6 on days Ohtani takes the mound.

Did that fact frustrate Ohtani?

“As a pitcher, of course you want to have a good game and actually win, but that’s not always going to happen,” he said. “I’m part of the fault for that, too. I’m in the lineup most of my starts. And today I was only able to get one hit. Maybe if I’m better, I get more run support for myself.”

Cishek’s implosion

Despite Cishek entering Monday’s game with a bullpen-best 2.83 ERA, walks had been a recurring problem for him.

And in Oakland, they cost the veteran right-hander in a big way.

After relieving Ohtani to begin the bottom of the seventh, Cishek’s command was off. After getting his first batter, Mitch Moreland, into a 1-and-2 hole, Cishek missed badly with a fastball and two sliders to issue a leadoff walk.

His next at-bat against Chapman wasn’t much better, a five-pitch walk that included a mound visit from pitching coach Matt Wise.

With two on and no outs, Cishek got Laureano into a 1-and-2 hole but pulled a slider well outside the zone to level the count. He tried going back to the slider on the next pitch, but left one hanging up in the zone that Laureano crushed over the wall in left.

It was the first home run Cishek had allowed in 41-1/3 innings this year. The walks that preceded it, however, were nothing new.

Cishek has issued 27 free passes, an average of almost six per nine innings. He said the problem was that he was pulling his breaking balls, leading him to “overcorrect” the slider that Laureano hit out.

“That’s the ball that clipped us — or clipped me, I should say,” Cishek explained. “I know what adjustments need to be made up in my mind. It’s just a matter of executing it. Today, wasn’t able to do it.”

Cishek left the game before the next at-bat, his ERA ballooning to 3.48 after he failed to record a single out.

Marsh does well, rest of lineup struggles

The Angels threatened at the plate throughout the game, producing baserunners in all but one inning while outhitting the A’s 8-7.

They squandered almost every opportunity, however, in their 14th game of one run or none (eight of which have come against AL West opponents).

David Fletcher was stranded in the first after hitting a leadoff double, then was thrown out at the plate trying to score on Ohtani’s double in the third (the Angels challenged the call for the catcher potentially blocking the plate, but to no avail).

Leadoff singles in the second and the fifth were erased by double plays.

And not until the ninth, when Brandon Marsh lined an RBI double into the left field corner, did they finally score.

“There’s a lot of little things that, if we can just get it running in our favor, we would be in pretty good position,” Maddon said.

Marsh was a lone bright spot, collecting the first three hits of his career, as well as his first RBI.

“Validation is always wonderful,” Maddon said. “It’s still early. He still has time to either really take off, or possibly struggle. That’s just what happens. But it was a nice game, a real nice game. I was happy. And going into tomorrow his confidence will be high.”

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Shohei Ohtani to play both ways in first start after All-Star break

OAKLAND — When he makes his first pitching start of the second half of the season on Monday against the Oakland Athletics, Shohei Ohtani will also be in the batting order, playing both ways for the 11th time in 14 starts this season.

“This one was an easy one for him,” Maddon said of Ohtani playing both ways. “He sees a big bench for us tonight. So he knows that it’d be somewhat easier to match it up game in progress if something were to happen.”

The real surprise was that Kurt Suzuki, not Max Stassi, was announced as Monday’s starting catcher.

This past weekend, Maddon had originally said Stassi would catch on Monday. However, Maddon said that was when he mistakingly thought A’s right-hander James Kaprielian was starting Monday. When he realized left-hander Cole Irvin was actually starting Monday — Kaprielian will pitch Tuesday — he wanted to have Suzuki face the left-hander and Stassi face the right-hander.

Had both games been at night, Maddon noted, Stassi would have caught both. But he didn’t want to wear down Stassi with Tuesday’s game being in the afternoon.

Maddon added that he doesn’t ask Ohtani who the right-hander wants behind the plate before each start, but said Ohtani has told him he’s fine with either Stassi or Suzuki.

Suzuki has caught 11 of Ohtani’s first 13 starts — earlier this year, Maddon was trying to keep them paired together, but has since gone back to switching better the two backstops — with the other two going to Stassi.

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Mike Trout continues recovery on Angels road trip; Justin Upton begins rehab assignment

Mike Trout accompanied the Angels on their road trip as he continues to rehab a calf strain. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
(Luis Sinco)

OAKLAND — For the first time since suffering a right calf strain on May 17, Angels center fielder Mike Trout went on the road with the team this week to Oakland.

Trout’s return still isn’t imminent, according to manager Joe Maddon, who on Monday confirmed Trout will still need to go on a rehab assignment before returning.

A date for any rehab assignment or big-league return is still unclear, but Maddon said he liked that Trout wanted to accompany the team this week.

“It gets him back in the flow with the group, and I think there’s even more intensity in the work,” Maddon said. “It’s good to have him here.”

Prior to Monday’s game, Trout spent more than half-an-hour jogging and doing agility drills in the outfield with team trainers.

Upton begins rehab assignment

The Angels announced outfielder Justin Upton will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday.

Maddon said Upton will play two games with Salt Lake on Monday and Tuesday for sure, then be re-evaluated on Wednesday when both the Angels and Salt Lake have off days.

“It’s open-ended,” Maddon said of Upton’s timeline. “Relying on the veteran a lot.”

Upton hasn’t played since June 22 with a right low back strain.

Short hops

The Angels traded left-handed pitcher Dillon Peters to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday for cash considerations. Peters had been designated for assignment last week to make room for the team’s signing of Adam Eaton.

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Angels vs. A’s: Betting lines and analysis for Monday

The Los Angeles Angels travel to Oakland having gone 2-8 in their past 10 games against teams in the American League West and will seek revenge against an Athletics team that swept them in Oakland in June.

The MLB leader in home runs, Shohei Ohtani, will be on the mound for the Angels and enters having allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of his 13 starts this season. He has given up just three walks per nine innings in his last nine starts after issuing 9.2 walks per nine innings in his first four starts.

The Athletics have gotten to Ohtani the past two times they’ve faced him, plating eight runs and drawing seven walks in six innings.

Angels vs. A's betting odds for Monday
(VSiN)

Oakland will start Cole Irvin, who has had a tougher time pitching at home than on the road. The team has won six of Irvin’s last seven starts despite him having a 2-5 home record with a 4.30 ERA and 5.7 strikeouts per nine innings compared to 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings, 2.85 ERA and 4-3 record on the road.

The Athletics are 21-9 in their past 30 games against the Angels and have covered seven of their last eight games on the run line as an underdog.

The Angels have scored at least four runs in 28 of their past 35 games but have covered the run line in two of their past 10 games as a favorite and all seven of their losses against the Athletics this season have been by two or more runs.

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