On an evening both faced their former ballclub together for the first time this season, neither Angels manager Brad Ausmus nor outfielder Justin Upton had a great showing.
Ausmus watched from his perch in the Angels dugout as the Detroit Tigers picked apart his burgeoning — but struggling — rookie setup man Ty Buttrey in the eighth inning of what was then a one-run game in Monday’s 7-2 loss. And Upton extended his weeks-long slump, going hitless in four at-bats.
A day later, Ausmus employed his prior knowledge of Upton from their shared time in Detroit and gave the outfielder Tuesday off to reset. Upton has batted .160 (eight for 50) with one homer, four RBIs and 19 strikeouts in 14 games since July 13. His struggles were especially pronounced when he struck out with the bases loaded Monday night, swinging through a 79-mph pitch well off the plate after working the count full.
“Having gone through it, I think he understands that taking a step back, and working on the mechanics of hitting or his approach as a hitter in the box — doing that and not having to deal with in-game at-bats right away can sometimes speed the process,” Ausmus said.
Upton is a notoriously streaky hitter. Even during his All-Star campaign in 2017 — the one that inspired general manager Billy Eppler to acquire him at the now-extinct August waiver deadline — he batted .217 in May and turned in averages above .300 in June and July.
That trend has held true since he joined the Angels in late 2017. Just as the Angels embarked on a postseason chase, Upton cooled. His middle-of-the-order bat did not help the Angels differentiate themselves from the seven other teams seeking a wild-card berth at the time.
But Upton, who signed with the Angels for five years and $106 million after that season, remains a critical cog in the Angels lineup. The Angels ranked 10th with 363 runs and hit .257 through the first 72 games of the season, which Upton missed because of a toe sprain. After he was activated June 17, the Angels scored the ninth-most runs (107) and had the fifth-highest batting average (.275) during their next 16 games.
Upton hit .278 with a double, four home runs and eight RBIs in his 63 plate appearances during that span.
“You have to start seeing the ball better,” Upton said after Monday’s loss. “The game sped up on me. When teams know they don’t have to make perfect pitches against you, they make perfect pitches. It’s one of those things where I have to start seeing the ball better and get the barrel on it.”
Hall of Fame gets new artifacts
The Angels may only have one representative -- Vladimir Guerrero -- wearing their cap in Cooperstown, but the display of Angels paraphernalia at the Hall of Fame is about to grow. Gear from the Angels’ July 12 combined no-hitter arrived Tuesday. Taylor Cole’s and Felix Pena’s caps, Andrew Heaney’s SKAGGS 45 jersey and a baseball signed by Cole, Pena and catcher Dustin Garneau were donated.
Tim Mead, the longtime Angels vice president of communication who is now president of the Hall of Fame, said no determination has been made on how the items will be displayed.
Catcher Kevan Smith was scratched from the lineup Tuesday because of right big toe soreness. The Angels have reinforcements coming: Jonathan Lucroy, on the injured list recovering from a nose fracture, completed his rehab assignment Tuesday. . . . Right-hander JC Ramirez was reinstated from the 60-day injured list Tuesday, giving the Angels bullpen a boost just as they’re preparing to embark on one of the hardest stretches of their season. Left-handed reliever Adam McCreery, whom the Angels claimed from the Dodgers earlier this month, was designated for assignment. . . . The St. Louis Cardinals claimed left-hander Adalberto Mejia from the Angels on Tuesday. It is his third team in two weeks. The Angels, in need of fresh bullpen arms, designated Mejia for assignment after their 16-inning game last week.