‘We have to get straightened out’: Angels must fix pitching woes to get to playoffs
Members of the Angels front office didn’t expect the rotation to carry the team into the postseason. They built the 2020 squad with an offense-first formula, hoping a retooled lineup could outslug their rivals.
Nearly a month into the season, the Angels aren’t getting help from either unit.
While the offense has struggled more than the Angels expected, the rotation has been even worse. Before Patrick Sandoval gave up five runs in four innings during Wednesday’s 7-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants, Angels starters had combined for a 5.27 ERA. The league-average ERA was 4.45.
“I’m not banging on the pitching, but we just have to pitch more consistently to really get where we want to be,” manager Joe Maddon said in a postgame videoconference. “That’s the part of the game right now that we have to get straightened out more than anything.”
The Angels are scrambling. After taking their sixth defeat in seven games, the Angels are 8-17. They have only 35 games remaining in this 60-game season to correct course.
In an attempt to slow their demise, Julio Teheran was bumped from the rotation. Jose Suarez, 22, will start in the veteran’s place Thursday.
Meanwhile, Teheran will pitch out of the bullpen until he’s “back throwing like he’s capable,” Maddon said.
The problem is only one Angels pitcher — Dylan Bundy ranks second in the American League with 38 strikeouts and seventh with a 2.48 ERA — is playing to his potential.
“As much as anything, we got to start holding other teams down a little bit better,” Maddon said. “We need to start being able to hold small leads and small deficits to get where we want to be. But it’s frustrating for everybody. The thing you do is you show up tomorrow and you go about your business properly.”
Maddon attributed Teheran’s 12.38 ERA over three starts to a delayed schedule. Teheran, who will earn a prorated portion of the one-year, $9-million contract he signed in December, missed two weeks of training camp because of a bout with COVID-19. He made only one intrasquad outing before joining the rotation during the second week of the season.
None of Teheran’s possible long-term replacements has a track record even remotely close to his. Right-hander Matt Andriese impressed in training camp but has surrendered 12 earned runs over 15 innings this season. Suarez, a left-hander, showed flashes of promise in 2019 but ended his rookie campaign with a 2-6 record and 7.11 ERA. He is assured of making only one start at the moment.
Jaime Barria, who pitched 41/3 innings in relief in Tuesday’s loss, could eventually slot into the rotation. Barria’s 3.41 ERA in 2018 was the second-best among Angels starters. But he posted a 6.42 ERA last season.
Not even pitching prospect Reid Detmers, part of the Angels’ 60-player pool, is a sure thing. He hasn’t thrown in an official game since his junior season at Louisville was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic in March. He has spent the last 11/2 months pitching to teammates at the Angels’ secondary training site.
Teheran’s demotion isn’t the first blow dealt to the Angels starting staff.
Two-way player Shohei Ohtani’s bid to again assume his “ace” designation ended after 12/3 innings because of a forearm injury announced Aug. 4.
Time is running out for them to claim one of the eight playoff spots available to American League teams.
Maddon is ready to give up on only one thing: Chasing an AL West division title, which is currently in the hands of the Oakland Athletics (17-8).
“To think you’re gonna get to the top of the division, that’s not going to happen,” Maddon said. “But there are ways to qualify. We have to qualify by pitching and defense. And then we’ll hit enough.”
Three takeaways on the Angels
- Trailing 5-2 with two outs in the fifth, Justin Upton struck out with the bases loaded. Before Upton’s slump deepened to one-for-37, Albert Pujols lined a one-run single to left field. He now has 2,086 RBIs, tied with Alex Rodriguez for second place on the all-time RBIs list compiled by the Elias Sports Bureau.
- The Angels were held to six hits, of which four came against veteran Johnny Cueto. Wednesday was the second game in a row a Giants starter limited the Angels to four hits. Former Angel Trevor Cahill did the same in a no-decision Tuesday.
- David Fletcher hit a single in the first and a double in the third — both on two-strike counts. His 17 hits with two strikes tie for most in the major leagues.
Torres reported from Los Angeles.
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