Angels fall to Indians and lose pitcher Felix Pena to knee injury
Angels manager Brad Ausmus held a brief team meeting before batting practice Saturday, presumably to address the team’s sluggish play during an eight-game stretch in which the Angels lost six games.
“I think our players are very focused, they go about their business the right way, and I have absolutely zero issue with the effort level or the caring,” Ausmus said. “We just had a crappy week. We’ve got to put the crappy week behind us.”
The crappy week got worse. Not only did the Angels lose to the Cleveland Indians 7-2 at Progressive Field on Saturday night, they lost their most reliable starting pitcher when Felix Pena suffered a right knee sprain in the second inning and had to be carried off the field.
Pena, who is 8-3 with a 4.58 earned-run average in 96 1/3 innings and threw the final seven innings of a combined no-hitter against Seattle on July 12, underwent an MRI test, the results of which were not available.
“I’m not overly optimistic based on his reaction,” Ausmus said when asked to assess the severity of Pena’s injury. “He’s pitched pretty well for us. We’re taking some hits in the starting rotation. We’ve got to find another way.”
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The infield might take a hit too. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who sat out five weeks of May and June because of a left ankle sprain, was scratched after injuring his left foot in the batting cage and underwent an MRI test.
“He didn’t foul a ball off of it,” Ausmus said. “It was a strange injury. We’re not sure exactly what it is. That’s why we’re getting it checked.”
There were two outs in the second inning when Jose Ramirez hit a hard grounder that first baseman Albert Pujols gloved near the outfield grass.
Pena, the only Angels starter to remain in the rotation for the entire season, had to lunge a bit for Pujols’ underhand flip. Pena twisted his left ankle on the bag but began hopping on his left foot, an indication the right-hander suffered a right leg injury.
“It didn’t look out of the ordinary other than him going down after he hit the top of the bag,” Ausmus said. “There was no obvious leg distortion or anything.”
It became clear as Pena grimaced in pain and remained on the field for a few minutes that the injury was serious.
The Angels had decided before the game to call up left-hander Patrick Sandoval, a former Mission Viejo High standout, from triple-A Salt Lake to make his big league debut in Cincinnati on Monday, a promotion that was expected to push struggling left-hander Jose Suarez back to the minor leagues.
With Pena likely headed for the injured list, Suarez was pushed back to Tuesday.
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Sandoval, 22, was acquired from Houston for catcher Martin Maldonado in July 2018. He was 4-7 with a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts for double-A Mobile and Salt Lake, striking out 98 and walking 42 in 80 1/3 innings.
Trevor Cahill replaced Pena and took a combined no-hitter into the fifth inning, when things unraveled. Franmil Reyes doubled with one out, and Jason Kipnis hit a towering two-run home run to center field.
Cahill (3-7) hit Kevin Plawecki with a pitch. Justin Anderson gave up a single to Tyler Naquin and a three-run home run to Francisco Lindor that made it 5-0. Cleveland, which is a major league-best 36-15 since June 4, scored two runs in the eighth, one on Carlos Santana’s home run against Cam Bedrosian.
Justin Upton, who is batting .153 with 25 strikeouts in 17 games since July 13, drove in both Angels runs with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly and an eighth-inning single, but the Angels were held to three runs or less for the fourth time in five days.
“We’re in kind of a lull offensively,” Ausmus said, “and have been for a little while.”
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