Anthony Rendon’s optimism, bat aren’t enough to save Angels from another loss
Anthony Rendon isn’t a stranger to slow starts.
Just last season, his Washington Nationals limped through their first 50 games. Their playoff chances dropped from 79% to 22% as their record fell to 19-31. Manager Dave Martinez, a protégé of current Angels skipper Joe Maddon, inspired so little public confidence that columnist Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post called for Martinez’s removal.
A little more than five months later, Rendon and Martinez stood with the Nationals in the center of Minute Maid Park as they celebrated the franchise’s first World Series title.
The Angels are nowhere near as well-rounded as the 2019 World Series champions. That weakness showed again in Thursday’s 10-5 loss to the San Francisco Giants when starter Jose Suarez and reliever Matt Andriese combined to throw 48 pitches and give up four runs in the second inning. By the end of the fourth inning, the Angels had only scored one run and tallied five hits against Giants starter Kevin Gausman.
But Rendon’s faith in the Angels isn’t wavering.
The Angels’ offense, which was supposed to be high-powered, and rotation contribute to poor start.
In a pregame videoconference call, Rendon was asked what he saw from the Nationals during their turbulent opening months. He found similarities between the Angels’ 8-17 start and the Nationals’ struggles.
“Ironically, I think it was pretty much the same thing to what’s happening now,” Rendon said. “If our pitching has been amazing, and they only give up one or two runs, then our hitting goes stagnant. And then if our hitting’s out there and scores about seven, eight runs, then our pitching unfortunately will give up eight or nine runs.
“We just got to keep grinding and keep on fighting out there and it’s eventually going to turn around. We just got to keep on trusting in our talents and not get too caught up in situations.”
It’s not as simple as that. The Angels are entering a critical stage.
The Nationals had roughly 70% of the season to emerge from their freefall. By Friday, the Angels will have already played 43% of their 2020 schedule.
Of their next seven games, three are against the American League West-leading Oakland Athletics (18-8) and four are against the second-place Houston Astros (15-10).
“Where they were at last year, again a 162-game season, you have a chance to right things in a more conventional way,” Maddon said. “This has got to be an accelerated method.”
Julio Teheran, expected to hold down a spot in the Angels’ starting rotation after signing a one-year, $9-million deal, was banished to the bullpen.
Maddon’s pitching staff — which surrendered at least six runs for an eighth straight game, something no other team in franchise history has done — again doomed his team Thursday night. Julio Teheran pitched five innings in relief, his longest outing of the season, but gave up four runs to exacerbate the Angels’ woes.
When Gausman wavered in the fifth and gave up a walk and three singles, the Angels’ two-run rally fell short. They still trailed 9-3 when Brian Goodwin struck out to end the fifth. Anthony Bemboom’s solo homer in the sixth and RBI walk in the seventh provided only incremental improvement.
Rendon finished with three hits, giving him 18 in 37 at-bats since his season average dropped to .103 on Aug. 9.
Neither his optimism nor his steadiness was enough to jump-start the Angels’ turnaround.
— In his first start of the season, Suarez faced only 12 batters in 1 1/3 innings. He gave up five hits, one walk and five runs. He threw 48 pitches and only seven generated whiffs. One encouraging item: The average velocity of Sandoval’s pitches improved by 2 mph over 2019.
In a postgame videoconference, Suarez revealed he missed Angels training camp last month because of a bout with COVID-19. He attributed some of his struggles to heightened emotion.
“I was really excited to come back, especially after having the virus,” Suarez said in Spanish. “I might have been too excited today. I think that’s one of the things where I failed, that I pitched with too much emotion and intensity. Thanks to God, I felt great with my arm and everything else today.”
— Reliever Shaun Anderson was summoned to face Mike Trout two games after the pitcher threw near Trout’s head. One of Anderson’s seventh-inning pitches went up and in, drawing Maddon from the dugout and a warning from the umpires. Trout responded with a triple and eventually scored the Angels’ fifth run.
“Enough is enough,” Maddon said after the game. “It’s the major leagues. There’s a level of accountability here. I don’t want to use the word ‘irresponsible’ loosely but in that situation, you pretty much knew it was going to happen again. I’m not accusing the guy of doing anything on purpose. I’m just saying he doesn’t command his fastball enough in order to know where it’s going.”
Maddon later added: “My antenna were up. I’m not going to deny that. You just can’t permit that. … People get hurt like that. It is an anomaly moment. It’ll happen once in a while, I get it, it happens to everybody. But too often is not good. I didn’t like it.”
— Toward the end of a dreadful second inning, catcher Max Stassi left the game after taking a pitch thrown by Andriese in the right knee. He sustained a bruise. X-rays were negative.
— One day after taking a ground ball off his left wrist on an attempted diving play, Rendon said he felt pain in his hand “but it’s going to take something more than that to get me out of the lineup. … You’re only 100% when you get into spring training. Every day after that? It slowly dwindles.”
Torres reported from Los Angeles.
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