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Did Patrick Sandoval tip his pitches? Angels starter struggles against Astros

Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval throws against Houston Astros George Springer.
Angels starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval delivers against Houston’s George Springer during the first inning Monday.
(Michael Wyke / Associated Press)

If the first inning was a breeze for Patrick Sandoval on Monday night, then the next two innings were like the storm lurking in the Gulf of Mexico that could threaten the Angels in Houston this week: a hurricane.

The Angels left-hander needed only five pitches to retire the first three Astros. It was all uphill from there.

Sandoval threw 30 pitches in a two-run, four-hit second inning that the left-handed-hitting Kyle Tucker opened by crushing a 93-mph fastball for a home run.

He threw 29 pitches in a third inning that he couldn’t finish, giving up three runs and three hits before handing the ball to the bullpen, setting the tone on the mound for an 11-4 loss in Minute Maid Park.

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“They were on everything,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “There was not one thing he could throw up there that would fool any of their hitters. So, they were seeing him well. Maybe the ball didn’t have that typical jump at the end. There were a lot of pitches left [up]. And they did not miss him. Give them credit.”

Maddon did not go so far as to accuse the Astros, whose 2017 World Series title was marred by their electronic sign-stealing scandal, of banging on trash cans to alert hitters of what pitch was coming.

Mike Trout found out on social media that he supposedly had lost some speed in his jumps. The three-time AL MVP didn’t waste time fixing the issue.

But Sandoval, who could not establish his slider or locate his changeup in good spots, did not rule out the possibility that he may have inadvertently alerted the Astros of what was coming.

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“Not so much with nobody on base, but with runners on second, they’re known for being able to pick up things that pitchers are doing,” Sandoval said. “I might have been [tipping pitches]. I’m not sure yet. I’ll have to go back and look. It’s something that’s a possibility.”

Yuli Gurriel followed Tucker’s second-inning homer with a double to right-center, and he scored on Josh Reddick’s single to left-center for a 2-0 Houston lead.

Two Sandoval walks and Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons’ throwing error on a potential inning-ending double play in the third aided the Astros’ three-run rally, which included Michael Brantley’s RBI double and Reddick’s RBI single that made it 5-1.

Noé Ramirez threw 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief, and the Angels scored single runs in the third and fourth inning and two in the fifth to pull to within 5-4. Keynan Middleton retired the side in order in the fifth.

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But Middleton walked Reddick to lead off the sixth and was replaced by Jacob Barnes, who walked Martin Maldonado and hit Springer with a pitch to load the bases with one out. Mike Mayers replaced Barnes and struck out Altuve with a nasty full-count cut-fastball. He got two quick strikes on Correa. But Correa worked his way back to a full count before lacing a three-run double into the left-field corner for an 8-4 lead.

Mike Trout 2009 Bowman Chrome Draft Prospects Superfractor rookie card broke the previous record of $3.12 million for a 1909 Honus Wagner T-206 card.

The Angels’ 2019 pitching staff put together one of the worst campaigns in franchise history, posting a 5.12 ERA — the third-highest of any Angels team — and allowing the third-most homers (267) in baseball. No other team in franchise history had allowed more than 228 homers, a record set by the 2000 Angels.

The rotation and bullpen were both expected to improve in 2020, but halfway through the season, the numbers are not good.

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The Angels have given up 156 earned runs in 264 2/3 innings for a 5.30 ERA, the fourth-worst in baseball. Their starting pitchers’ ERA of 6.06 is the second-worst in baseball, while the relievers’ ERA of 4.57 ranks 17th among 30 teams.

Monday night’s abbreviated start that forced them to use five relievers — well, six if you count catcher Anthony Bemboom, who threw a scoreless ninth despite not throwing one pitch faster than 67 mph — could handcuff the Angels a bit in Tuesday’s doubleheader.

But with rosters expanded to 29 for the two seven-inning games, they’ll be able to add a pitcher. Ty Buttrey, Felix Peña, Matt Andriese and Hoby Milner were not used Monday night, and Barnes should be available after throwing only nine pitches Monday.

“I think we’ll have enough [pitching] to cover,” Maddon said, “but to win the games, our starters have to go deeper, which will permit us to use the bullpen appropriately.”

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And eliminate the need for a position player to pitch, even though Bemboom was effective if not overpowering, inducing three fly-ball outs and walking one with the 16 pitches he floated to the plate in his big league mound debut.

“I told him coming off the field, this is definitely something to tell your grandkids,” Maddon said, “that you have perfect ERA in the big leagues.”


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