An ability to command four pitches, a dearth of hard contact, a low pitch count and a three-run cushion inspired Brad Ausmus to show the ultimate sign of trust in a young pitcher Sunday: The Angels’ manager let Griffin Canning go a third time through the Chicago White Sox order.
The rookie right-hander did not disappoint, delivering what was arguably the best start of his young career in a 9-2 victory before 35,436 at Angel Stadium.
Canning, mixing a fastball that touched 95 mph with a sharp slider, changeup and curve, allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, striking out eight and walking one, to improve to 5-6 with a 4.58 ERA.
He threw 101 pitches, one shy of his career high. Sixty-three were strikes. He induced 19 swinging strikes, seven with his slider and five each with his fastball and curve.
The Angels rarely allow starters to go a third time through the order, but Canning threw 62 pitches through five innings, and his stuff was crisp. He allowed three singles and struck out three of the eight batters he faced for a third time.
“We had a little breathing room, so I let him ride,” Ausmus said. “There was a moment where I thought he was tiring, but he gathered himself and finished strong.”
Fellow rookie Matt Thaiss led a 15-hit attack with three hits, including a three-run homer in the second inning and an RBI double in the sixth, and Kole Calhoun (solo shot in the fourth), Shohei Ohtani (two-run shot in the seventh) and Anthony Bemboom (two-run shot in the eighth) added homers.
Canning, a second-round pick out of UCLA in 2017, did not allow a hit through 3 2/3 innings. The only run he allowed came when center fielder Brian Goodwin lost Eloy Jimenez’s fourth-inning fly ball in the sun, the ball dropping on the warning track for an RBI triple.
After a four-appearance lull in which he allowed 16 earned runs and 18 hits in 11 2/3 innings from July 4 to July 25, Canning has allowed four earned runs and 15 hits in 17 innings over his last three starts. The adjustments, Canning said, were more mental than physical. They required less thinking, more attacking.
“You’re always kind of evolving, trying to figure out a routine, but ultimately it comes down to being myself, which I felt like I did really well when I first got up here,” said Canning, who went 3-4 with a 3.79 ERA in his first 11 starts. “Not overthinking things, pretty much.
“Honestly, I would overthink wherever I am; it’s kind of the nature of it. As much as you try to put the thoughts out of your mind and trust your preparation and the scouting reports … it’s tough. Having a good feel with all your pitches helps. Being on the attack, throwing more strikes and getting quick outs helped today.”
So did an early three-run lead. Calhoun doubled with one out in the second. Luis Rengifo, who had two hits and scored twice, was hit by a pitch. Thaiss, who entered the game with a .179 batting average, drove a 96-mph fastball from right-hander Dylan Cease (2-6) to right field for a three-run homer, his sixth of the season.
“It’s pretty obvious things haven’t been going the way I want them to,” Thaiss said. “I think today was a step in the right direction.”
Calhoun’s leadoff shot to center in the fourth gave him a career-high 27 homers, topping the 26 he hit in 2015, and the Angels a 4-1 lead. Back-to-back doubles by Rengifo and Thaiss made it 5-1 in the sixth.
Ohtani, who had hit one homer in 32 games since the All-Star break, drove a 431-foot blast to center — his 16th of the season — for a 7-1 lead in the seventh. Catcher Anthony Bemboom’s 422-foot two-run shot to right, the first homer of his career, made it 9-1 in the eighth.
“That,” Ausmus said, “was a Bem-bomb.”
Jose Suarez sent down
The Angels were encouraged by Jose Suarez’s ability to make an in-game adjustment to address his pitch-tipping issues Saturday night, but that didn’t prevent the 21-year-old left-hander from getting demoted to triple A on Sunday.
“We wanted him to work on some things,” Ausmus said, “and it’s easier to work on things down there than it is up here.”
Suarez is 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA in 12 big league games, but he regressed in his last four games, allowing 18 earned runs and 27 hits, including six homers, in 16 1/3 innings for a 9.92 ERA. Coaches believe Suarez was telegraphing pitches by the way he set his glove and pitching hand in the stretch.
“He has to work on it not only in games but in bullpens,” Ausmus said. “Quite frankly, I told him to stand in front of a mirror and do it in the hotel room when he’s traveling, just get it ingrained in his brain so he doesn’t have to think about it while he’s trying to execute pitches.”
Mike Trout did not play Sunday after serving as the designated hitter Saturday night, but Ausmus said the center fielder is fine. With four games, including a Tuesday doubleheader, scheduled in the 100-degree heat of Texas starting Monday, Ausmus wanted to give Trout two days off his feet. … Pitcher JC Ramirez accepted an assignment to triple-A Salt Lake. … Reliever Miguel Del Pozo, a left-hander acquired from Texas on Aug. 9, was called up from Salt Lake on Sunday.