Angels rookie Jose Suarez’s next start was supposed to be for triple-A Salt Lake. He had struggled in five July outings, failing to last five innings and giving up 13 earned runs while allowing a .277 opponents’ average. His vaunted changeup failed him in a loss last week. The Angels wanted the 21-year-old to reset.
Felix Pena’s season-ending knee injury flipped the script.
So there Suarez was on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park, erasing a first-inning lead on the way to an 8-4 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
For the first time during this six-game losing streak, the Angels offense gifted their starter a respectable cushion before arriving on the mound. Justin Upton, trying to shake the .171 average he assembled during a 21-game slump, thumped a down-the-middle fastball from Anthony DeSclafani for a three-run home run in the first. He finished the night with two walks, reinforcing his manager’s declaration that the streaky outfielder had begun to progress.
“I just think the at-bats look better,” Brad Ausmus said before the game. “He’s letting the ball travel deeper. He’s not swinging and missing like he was on pitches way out of the zone.”
Yet Upton’s breakout did nothing to assuage Suarez. After getting two outs in the first, Eugenio Suarez homered on the Angels left-hander’s diving changeup. Two batters later, Jose Iglesias elevated the same pitch for a game-tying blast.
Suarez never recovered. He surrendered six runs and 10 hits over five innings.
The Reds did all of their damage with two outs.
“A lot of times they were sitting breaking ball,” Suarez said in Spanish. “I tried to throw them the way I wanted to, but I kept putting them in the zone. They weren’t breaking like I wanted them to.”
Suarez threw 70% of his 91 pitches for strikes, but the career-best percentage didn’t mask the ineffectiveness of his off-speed pitches. He again struggled to command his changeup, receiving only two swings and misses on 22 of the ones he threw. His curveball drew no whiffs.
“I don’t know that it’s one particular reason or one particular pitch,” Ausmus said. “Today it was a couple changeups and a fastball out over. So I don’t think it’s a pitch. It’s probably location on particular pitches.”
A 54-minute rain interruption in the eighth inning only served to delay the Angels’ spiral.
As the Angels suffered their 10th loss in 12 games, Mike Trout continued his chase of the home run title — and bid for a third most valuable player award. He blasted a solo homer in the fifth inning for his 38th of the season, a total that leads Minnesota’s Nelson Cruz by six. He finished the game worth a major league-leading 7.6 wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs’ version of the statistic that calculates a player’s worth to his team. The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, who paced Trout in that race midway through June, was tied for second with a 6.4 WAR.
Trout now has 16 home runs in his last 26 games.
On the eve of his 28th birthday, the Angels star’s legend grew. Only Alex Rodriguez (322), Jimmie Foxx (302), Eddie Mathews (299), Ken Griffey Jr. (294), Albert Pujols (282) and Mickey Mantle (280) hit more homers than the 278 Trout hit before turning 28. Unlike five on that list, Trout has never led the league in home runs.
That could soon change.
“It’s pretty cool with [Christian] Yelich and Bellinger,” Trout said. “They are all having great seasons, MVP seasons. It’s fun to watch. Fun to be a part of.”