The Angels lost 6-2 to the Cleveland Indians on Monday night at Angel Stadium, a defeat that seemed almost inevitable without Mike Trout in a game for a second consecutive day.
The center fielder had irritated nerves in his right foot frozen by needles. Manager Brad Ausmus expects Trout, who has dealt with a Morton’s neuroma that has affected the ball of his foot for nearly a month, to recover from the cryoablation treatment by the end of this three-game series with the Indians.
It has been only a few days, but Trout’s return might not come soon enough. His absence, and rookie starter Patrick Sandoval (0-3) giving up three runs in 3 1/3 innings, left few Angels developments for the announced crowd of 35,753 to applaud.
Angels rookie Jared Walsh hit his first home run on Carlos Carrasco’s low 95-mph fastball to lead off the eighth inning, but it went for naught.
More fans were invested in the performance of Cleveland’s Shane Bieber than in the Angels’ sputtering offense. Bieber, a product of Laguna Hills High and UC Santa Barbara who is in his second major league season, was greeted with “Let’s go, Bieber” chants while he prepared for his first appearance in Anaheim. He held the Angels to five hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings. He retired 17 of 18 after giving up three hits, including Albert Pujols’ 22nd home run, in the second inning.
He stood on the field for a postgame interview, separated only by stadium netting from more than 150 raucous friends and family members.
“It was special,” said Bieber, who was an Angels fan before the Indians drafted him out of college in the fourth round in 2016. “I didn’t necessarily expect that, but obviously growing up 20 minutes from here and then going to college like 2 hours north of here, there was a lot of people here to support, so that was special for me. A lot of special moments for me throughout this year, and that was definitely one of them.”
Bieber (14-7) is a key cog in an Indians pitching machine that began the game with a 3.56 earned-run average since June 4, best in the American League. Last month, the 24-year-old right-hander held the Angels to two runs in his third complete game this season. He has given up 14 earned runs and held opponents to a .232 average in 46 1/3 innings in seven outings since.
On Monday, Bieber registered five swings and misses on his 84-mph knuckle-curve and blew 12 fastballs past the Angels for called strikes. The Angels blistered some of his 111 pitches into play, but few fell.
“Let’s go, Bieber” chants persisted until the Orange County native, who was selected the most valuable player of the All-Star game in July, popped his head over the dugout bench after he induced a groundball to end the seventh inning. Angels fans who watched the team fall to 11 games under .500 with 17 games remaining hardly stirred.
“Obviously you want the fans to cheer for us,” said Sandoval, a native of Mission Viejo who received support similar to Bieber’s cheering section when he first pitched at Angel Stadium on Aug. 16, “but that was pretty awesome.”