A once-comfortable lead slipped away from the Angels, first subtly. Then it burned to ashes Tuesday night, with reliever Taylor Cole giving up four runs while securing only two outs in the fifth inning en route to a 10-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Angel Stadium.
“Get it together, Angels!” a fan situated behind home plate bellowed mere moments before Kole Calhoun ripped a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth.
Get it together, the Angels did not.
Calhoun tried to heed the plea, advancing to third and tagging up on a fly ball. But he was thrown out by center fielder Starling Marte on a bang-bang play at the plate. The double play ended the Angels’ fifth-inning threat and kept them down 7-5.
Justin Upton lined a single to drive in two runs in the ninth, but the Angels could not bridge the gap between themselves and a team that also had won only twice in its previous 10 games. They continued to bleed runs instead.
Reliever Jake Jewell, recalled from Salt Lake before the game, hit a batter and watched him score on a double in the seventh. Bryan Reynolds, who entered the game with a .333 average that tied for second best in the major leagues, blasted a solo home run to straightaway center field to give the Pirates a 10-5 lead.
Before Jewell put the game out of reach, Cole (2-4) let a 5-3 lead slip away in the fifth. He jogged in from the bullpen and promptly surrendered a single to Marte and a home run to Josh Bell.
“It’s kind of a Jekyll and Hyde,” manager Brad Ausmus said of Cole, who rebounded from two rough starts to throw 22/3 scoreless innings in Boston over the weekend. “Not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it is. It could just be off days.”
The two-run shot erased rookie starter Griffin Canning from the decision.
Canning did not seem to suffer from discomfort in his right elbow, which became sore enough following his start July30 that he landed on the injured list. He had no trouble reaching for the velocity on his 94 mph fastball. He generated six swings-and-misses and received seven called strikes on his biting slider.
But Canning allowed hard enough contact to put himself in danger. He lasted only four innings and 80 pitches and gave up six hits.
The Angels held a 4-0 advantage after two innings. David Fletcher, who entered the game with only five hits in August, picked up four hits and a walk the day after he received a day off. His leadoff double in the first sparked a three-run inning.
The cushion disappeared as wackiness unfolded in the third inning. With two runners on, Bell blooped a ball to left field. Upton slid to catch the ball but booted it. He recovered and threw to third base. No one was there, leaving Canning to back up the play. He tried to throw Bell out at second base, but the ball skipped into right field. Two runs scored by the time Calhoun got the ball back to the infield. Canning was charged with an error.
“I think I probably deserved it just falling behind guys, working from behind, not being on the attack,” Canning said.
The Pirates added their third run when Colin Moran hit a double. Canning retired the next two and faced four batters in the fourth to maintain the Angels’ lead — which grew to 5-3 on Luis Rengifo’s RBI single in the bottom of the third.
But the bullpen couldn’t keep the lead.
“A tough pill to swallow,” Cole said. “I feel like I’ve thrown the ball a lot better than these last five games. It’s not one or two runs, it’s four or five. One of those (outings) is enough. … Maybe subconsciously I’m doing something different that I’m not recognizing. But I need to recognize it and figure out what it is, because I put our team in a tough situation.
“I think me bouncing back after those other two was a good indicator that I’m going to be alright. Then this happens. I’ll bounce back from it again.”