After a marathon 16-inning loss Thursday night, the Angels desperately needed someone to serve as a Band-Aid for their pitching staff Friday night.
Nick Tropeano wasn’t quite it.
Recalled from triple-A Salt Lake that afternoon after originally scheduled starter Griffin Canning was forced into relief duty the night before, Tropeano was roughed up by the Baltimore Orioles in the Angels’ 9-3 loss in front of 38,852 at Angel Stadium, their second straight to defeat to the team with the second-worst record in baseball.
Tropeano allowed seven runs in the first two innings and six hits. He walked three batters and hit another. Though he saved a weary bullpen by settling down after his bumpy opening and pitching five innings, that was the only relief he provided the reeling rotation.
“He got behind some of the hitters early,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was really the second inning that hurt him.”
This month, the Angels have kept pace in the wild-card race — they’re 41/2 games behind Oakland and Tampa Bay for the final playoff spot, the same deficit they faced at the beginning of July — despite vanishing depth on the mound.
Tyler Skaggs’ death on July 1 robbed the team of its budding ace. Andrew Heaney’s trip to the injured list cost it another consistent starter. Matt Harvey was designated for assignment, then released this week.
Tropeano, who had stumbled to a 2-4 record and 7.66 ERA in 11 appearances (nine starts) with Salt Lake, was one of the few rested pitchers on the 40-man roster available to start Friday.
Before the game, Ausmus sounded hopeful Tropeano — who has struggled to stay in the big leagues since Tommy John surgery cost him all of 2017 — could rediscover his early career form, when he collected a 6-4 record and 3.69 ERA in 20 starts during 2015 and 2016.
“We kind of need some guys to step up,” Ausmus said. “Trop being one.”
But in his first big league start since last August, Tropeano ran into immediate trouble.
He led off the game by plunking Jonathan Villar, who stole second, advanced to third on a fly ball and scored on a sacrifice fly. In the second inning, Tropeano surrendered two singles and two walks before Renato Nunez drove a low splitter to right for a three-run home run, making it 7-0.
“Our job as starting pitchers is to give our team an opportunity to win, minimize damage and go deep in the game,” Tropeano said. “I didn’t do any of those. It kind of stemmed from walking people. Two of those walks scored. It gets back to first-pitch strikes, executing pitches and getting behind in the count.”
The Angels got on the board when Matt Thaiss hacked a high breaking ball into the shallow right-field stands for a two-run home run in the fifth inning. In the ninth, Justin Upton hit a solo shot. All five of their hits went for extra bases, a first in franchise history.
But they could manage just two runs against Orioles starter Asher Wojciechowski, who went seven innings and struck out six.
“He had two good breaking balls, a slider and a curveball, both good pitches,” Ausmus said of the right-hander. “Had enough velocity ... I thought he looked particularly tough on right-handed hitters.”
Ausmus still wasn’t sure who would take the bump Saturday, which is slated to be a bullpen game even after Thursday’s draining defeat. Asked if Tropeano’s five innings put the Angels’ pitching staff in a better position, Ausmus chuckled and said, “We don’t have a starter yet, so, slightly.”