For a few moments Friday night, no one was sure what had occurred to a ball lined off the bat of a Tampa Bay Rays hitter.
It might have landed in the glove of Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin, who chased the ball struck by Jesus Aguilar all the way to the center-field wall and leaped to catch it. It might have cleared the fence cleanly.
It was hard to know for sure until Goodwin landed upright on the warning track without either glove or ball and shook his head. That was when an umpire wagged his finger to signal a home run. Aguilar accelerated his slow jog around the bases into a real trot, and an Angel Stadium employee scrambled into the empty space in front of the rock pile to retrieve Goodwin’s glove.
The Angels trailed by only three runs at that point. It was not an insurmountable lead, and Kole Calhoun proved it 10 minutes later, hitting his 30th home run to cut the deficit to one. But after starter Andrew Heaney gave up his third homer of the third inning to erase the quaint lead his teammates had given him, the Angels seemed doomed to a fifth straight loss anyway. Mike Trout was missing from the lineup for the sixth straight game because of nerve irritation in his right foot, Shohei Ohtani was home recovering from a surgery that repaired a bipartite patella in his left knee and Justin Upton sat out because of a knee injury that might cut short his season.
Calhoun tried to make up for the absence of his team’s most powerful bats, slamming a solo shot in the eighth to extend his career high in home runs to 31. His efforts were mostly useless in an 11-4 loss.
“It felt good in the moment,” said Calhoun, who had never hit more than 26 home runs in a season before this year. Hitting 30 home runs was “something I’d been chasing the last couple weeks and really my whole career, honestly. So to get there was awesome.”
Heaney (4-5), whose 3.28 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six starts before Friday’s game were the best marks among Angels pitchers with more than 20 innings since Aug. 1, stumbled through 3 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs, four of them on three homers in the third and two in the fourth, and struck out only four. He retired all three batters in the second but put multiple Rays on base in every other inning he pitched.
Had it not been for Calhoun throwing a runner out at the plate to end the first, Heaney might not have put up zeroes in the first two innings.
“I didn’t feel like there was any lack of stuff or any lack of feeling good, anything like that,” said Heaney, who required 37 pitches to get through two innings but was able to work around three singles in the first. “Just kind of made some mistakes, didn’t put myself in great counts. They did a good job taking some good pitches, some close pitches and put good swings on the ones that were over the plate. That’s about how it went.”
Heaney’s troubles allowed Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton (15-6) to settle into a groove after allowing a one-out RBI single to rookie Luis Rengifo in the second, which drove in Albert Pujols after his leadoff double, and hanging a 94-mph fastball for Calhoun to crush in the third.
Morton retired the final nine Angels he faced in an efficient three-run, six-inning outing. He did enough for the Rays to remain in second place in the American League wild-card standings.
The Angels, meanwhile, were left to ponder whether the final 14 games would play out similarly to Friday’s drubbing if they are to play down the stretch without their most potent bats.
“We’re going to have to find a way. We’re going to have to put some good at-bats together and battle,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’re not playing easy teams. We are playing some of the best teams in the American League. You’ve got to buck up a little bit.”
Ausmus was not sure how he would handle Trout the rest of the season, but he said there are no conversations to shut Trout down. Trout could serve as the Angels’ primary designated hitter now that Ohtani is sidelined, but he needs to be healthy first. Ausmus found out after Trout went through pregame workouts that the Angels star still felt sore four days after receiving an injection of cold fluids in his right foot, a procedure that was supposed to alleviate the soreness that had dogged him for nearly a month. … Upton met with the team’s medical staff to review the results of the MRI he had on his sore right knee Wednesday and determined he will stop playing, receive a plasma-rich platelet injection next week and return to workouts sometime in November.