Angels hit four home runs, but bullpen can’t hold late lead
As the first ball sailed over the center-field fence, Mike Mayers bent over in dejection, head hung low, hands on knees.
When the next one also cleared the yellow line in right, the Angels reliever simply stood atop the mound and stared toward the outfield, seemingly frozen in disbelief.
In the span of three pitches, the Texas Rangers had erased a two-run Angels lead in the top of the eighth inning on Wednesday afternoon. After trailing for most the day, the back-to-back home runs sent the Rangers to a 7-4 victory at Angel Stadium, rallying them in the rubber match of a three-game series.
One of the Angels’ most trusted early-season relievers, Mayers entered the game with one on and one out and his team protecting a 3-1 lead.
But he walked Joey Gallo on a full count, surrendered a go-ahead three-run homer to Adolis García on a low fastball over the plate and watched Nate Lowe hammer another heater at the bottom of the zone in the next at-bat.
“The walk to Gallo was big, the pitch to García was just in the wrong spot and then of course Lowe,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon. “That’s his spot right there, Gallo, García, Lowe. It didn’t work out.”
Now that Shohei Ohtani’s blister issue appears to be resolved, the Angels pitcher just needs to get his command ‘tidied up a bit,’ manager Joe Maddon said.
There were other mistakes that doomed the Angels (9-7). In the bottom of the seventh, Mike Trout grounded out with the bases loaded in what proved to be a crucial missed opportunity. And in the top of the ninth, reliever Junior Guerra gave up two more Rangers runs to erase any hope of a comeback.
But it was Mayers trudging back to the dugout and finding a lonely spot on the bench that provided the most emblematic scene, underlining the team’s first loss this season in which the bullpen blew a lead.
Here are three observations from the defeat.
Bullpen doesn’t come through
The collapse was a complete contrast from the night before, when Mayers threw 27 pitches in 1⅔ scoreless innings of relief.
Despite that workload, Maddon said Mayers felt fine to appear in a second straight game, especially after previously having three days of rest.
“There’s all kinds of considerations,” Maddon said. “When you’re talking to a veteran pitcher, you listen, and I listened to him. So, 1⅔ [innings] with 27 [pitches] after three days off isn’t bad.”
Mayers walked Gallo from a 2-2 count, misplaced a fastball after putting García in a 1-2 hole and exited the game following Lowe’s home run without recording an out.
Guerra, who had thrown seven scoreless innings prior to the game, wasn’t much better in the ninth. He sandwiched two walks around a one-out single before walking Gallo to score one run and committing a balk that made it 7-3.
A José Iglesias home run was all the Angels could muster in the bottom of the ninth.
Playing long ball
Three other Angels players hit homers, giving the team its early 3-1 lead.
Trout went deep in the first inning, smashing his sixth home run of the year to right.
In the third, Shohei Ohtani hit his fifth of the season and the 100th as a professional, combining his time in Major League Baseball and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
In the fourth, Justin Upton drove a hard line drive over the short wall near the left-field line.
Upton left the game following an at-bat in the eighth inning, but Maddon said he only had a cramp.
Shohei Ohtani returned to the mount for the first time since April 4 as the Angels beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
Quintana shows improvement
After two turbulent starts to begin his Angels tenure, José Quintana rebounded with a five-inning, one-run performance.
The left-hander made a couple of adjustments, setting up more toward the first-base side of the rubber and heeding Maddon’s advice to be more aggressive attacking the zone. The results were promising, with Quintana giving up just two hits and striking out eight batters in a 95-pitch display.
Though he issued four walks, he also threw a first-pitch strike in 15 of 20 at-bats and challenged hitters with his four-seam and two-seam fastballs, using one of the two to record seven of his strikeouts.
“I felt more competitive out there inning by inning,” Quintana said. “My position on the rubber was better, that adjustment to move to the first-base side. I think my fastballs into righties were way better, with elevation today, which was good. I feel really close to my command. Keep working on that. But when the game starts, it’s about competing. So that was really good.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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