One night after nearly being no-hit by the Seattle Mariners, Angels hitters were mostly quiet Saturday at T-Mobile Park.
Until David Fletcher went to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners in the ninth inning, beckoned there by a fielding snafu that allowed rookie Luis Rengifo to reach first base on a popup.
Fletcher fouled off three straight pitches from reliever Roenis Elias (2-2) after getting in a 1-and-0 count. He poked the fifth pitch of the at-bat, a high 95-mph fastball, to right field to end the deadlock.
Two pitches later, Mike Trout crushed his 31st home run of the season to seal the Angels’ 6-2 victory.
“He battles,” Trout said of Fletcher, whose minuscule 8.4% strikeout rate is the lowest among qualified hitters. “I think he’s the toughest guy to strike out. The pitches before that, just fouling off those balls in, getting a pitch and hitting it hard to right field — I think it was identical to the one he hit in the first inning. The other one was a little higher. Like I said, we just kept passing it on, getting on base, and he delivered.”
Fletcher is batting .303 with 18 runs, eight doubles and six runs batted in over his last 20 games. This tear comes on the heels of a stretch in which he hit .224.
“I didn’t really change anything,” Fletcher said. “I just try and do the same thing every day, stay consistent, keep trying to have a good approach up there.”
Fletcher led off the game with a single, ensuring the Angels weren’t held hitless through eight innings for a second consecutive game. But his efforts did little to mitigate the Angels’ futility on offense. Their most productive early plate appearances ended in a double-play grounder by Kole Calhoun, which produced one run, and Kevan Smith’s run-scoring single to center field. The two fourth-inning runs tied the score 2-2.
Outside of that, the Angels were mostly silenced. Mariners left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who entered the game after a reliever pitched a scoreless first inning, scattered four hits over five innings and gave up two runs. The bullpen held firm until the ninth.
The Angels reliefs corps was stronger. Justin Anderson and Ty Buttrey (6-4) each faced the minimum number of batters in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Third baseman Kyle Seager reached on a two-out error by shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who couldn’t make a play on a ball hit up the middle, but Cam Bedrosian left Seager stranded.
Hansel Robles pitched a scoreless ninth inning to help the Angels improve to 8-6 in games started by rookie Griffin Canning.
The shortest start of Canning’s career occurred five days ago. In less than two innings, he gave up six walks and threw four wild pitches. He needed 50 pitches to get four outs. The Houston Astros took advantage of his nonexistent command to score three runs.
Canning didn’t panic. He didn’t overhaul his mechanics or try to patch something else that might have been broken.
On Saturday, Canning gave up two runs and four hits, walked one and struck out six in five innings. He retired the last 10 batters he faced after making a minor adjustment: Centering himself on the pitching rubber.
“Baseball is so frustrating. … Honestly, I don’t know if it did anything,” said Canning, whose 76 strikeouts are the most by an Angel through his first 14 outings. “But it put me in the right mind-set. It’s definitely something to build off with those last two innings.”