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Two-out runs are a problem for Angels’ pitching staff

Angels' Mike Trout collides with the wall while trying to catch a triple.
Angels’ Mike Trout collides with the wall while trying to catch a triple hit by Houston Astros’ George Springer during the fifth inning on Saturday at Angel Stadium.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

As satisfying as the previous two days have been for the Angels, who came from behind for three straight wins over the Houston Astros, one disturbing trend continued for a team that was finally able to climb out of last place in the American League West.

Of the 20 runs the Angels gave up in Friday night’s victory and Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, seven came with two out. On the season, the Angels have given up a major league-high 110 of their 224 runs (49%) with two out entering Sunday’s series finale against Houston.

And in the first inning of Sunday’s game, right-hand pitcher Jaime Barria gave up a two-out, two-run home run to the Astros’ Kyle Tucker.

“For me, there’s a reason—I think we have to be more motivated to throw the right pitch,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I’ve been a little concerned sometimes with pitch selection. And then there’s always execution. Bad [pitch] selection executed well could still work. But we have not executed well in certain situations, I think.”

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Mike Trout became the Angels’ all-time home run leader and Jo Adell had the winning hit in Game 1 as part of a doubleheader sweep of the Astros.

Maddon said better decision-making on pitch selection and better execution doesn’t just take place on the mound during games. It takes keen preparation, a knowledge of the situation and your surroundings and communication with the catcher.

“To be good, you have to know exactly what you’re doing,” Maddon said. “Who’s on deck? Is a base open? What can I do or not do? Is that guy on deck a better choice for me than this guy? There’s so much that we’re not analyzing in that moment that we need to move into going forward. Conversations are happening. We’re trying to fix it.”

The Angels have given up 10 more two-out runs than the next-closest team, the Boston Red Sox (100). The Colorado Rockies (93), Seattle Mariners (92) and Pittsburgh Pirates (86) are next on a top five list the Angels would like to escape.

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“Execution of the pitch to me has not been great in those in those moments, and oftentimes, the selection of which pitch to throw has not been great in those moments,” Maddon said. “And that’s what I want to get right. That’s what we need to get right.

Mike Trout hit a two-run homer in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Astros to take sole possession of the Angels’ franchise record.

“That’s what we’re working on right now and I’ve been working on for two or three weeks. I don’t know if there’s been any slow progress, but it’s frustrating man. And we’ve got to stop doing that.”

Short hops

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Catcher Max Stassi, sidelined since suffering a quadriceps strain and bruised knee in an Aug. 20 game at San Francisco, was activated off the 10-day injured list and in Sunday’s starting lineup. Catcher Jose Briceno was optioned to the team’s alternate training site. … Second baseman Luis Rengifo was scratched from Sunday’s lineup because of a left-thumb sprain suffered while tagging a runner out on a stolen-base attempt in the first game Saturday. … First baseman Jared Walsh took his place in the lineup, Albert Pujols moved from first base to designated hitter, and Franklin Barreto moved from DH to second base. … Left-hander Dillon Peters was returned as the 29th man to the alternate training site after Saturday night’s game. … Left-hander Ryan Buchter has elected free agency in lieu of accepting an outright assignment to the alternate training site.


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