Angels’ comeback falls short in loss to Indians

Angels' Justin Upton celebrates with designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon.
Angels’ Justin Upton celebrates with designated hitter Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon after they all scored off of a home run hit by Upton during the fourth inning against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday at Angel Stadium.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Even in the wake ofTuesday’s news that star center fielder Mike Trout is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a right calf strain, Angels manager Joe Maddon believed his team could remain competitive — on two conditions.

“We can score enough runs,” Maddon said. “We just have to pitch it and catch it to get where we want to be.”

Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians served as a prime example.


In the first inning, the Angels struggled to do both.

Starter Andrew Heaney gave up four hits, including a two-run homer and hard-hit double, in a 47-pitch frame.

Second baseman Phil Gosselin committed a two-part blunder with runners on second and third, booting a ground ball that allowed one run to score before casually throwing to second without realizing the trailing runner was also headed to the plate.

A cross-up between Heaney and catcher Drew Butera two at-bats later led to a passed ball that moved another runner to third, setting up a sacrifice fly.

And by the end of the inning, the Angels trailed 5-0.

Shohei Ohtani hit a homer while Mike Trout exited the game with a right calf strain in the Angels’ 7-4 win over the Cleveland Indians on Monday.

May 17, 2021

They did mount a comeback. Shohei Ohtani hit his MLB-leading 14th home run of the season in the first inning. Justin Upton clobbered a three-run shot in the fourth. José Iglesias tied it in the seventh with a solo blast to left.


But after the Indians went back in front in the eighth courtesy of a Josh Naylor home run against reliever Alex Claudio — the only run given up by the Angels bullpen during an otherwise sharp six-inning performance — the Angels couldn’t respond again.

Afterward, Maddon was of two minds, troubled by the early miscues but encouraged by his team’s fight in their first game following Trout’s injury.

“This was really an interesting night,” Maddon said. “We lost the game, but I liked what we saw.”

Three observations from the Angels’ 6-5 defeat:

Heaney struggles again: In what was the latest setback of his self-described “Jekyll and Hyde” season, Heaney struggled out of the gate by falling behind in counts and giving up hard contact.

Gosselin’s defensive mistake didn’t help — “We got caught napping right there,” Maddon said — but Heaney was most unhappy with himself.

“When I have good starts, they’re really good. When I have bad starts, they’re really bad,” the left-hander said, now owning a 5.31 ERA in eight appearances this season. “When stuff starts going sideways like it did tonight, I don’t shut down. I don’t give up. My job is to limit damage the best I can.”

Heaney did settle down following the long first inning, putting up zeros in the second and third. But after walking the leadoff batter in the fourth, Maddon summoned reliever Jaime Barria, who worked around a lot of solid contact to provide four important scoreless innings.

Angels star Mike Trout is expected to miss 6-8 weeks after sustaining a right calf strain during Monday’s win over Cleveland.

May 18, 2021

Ohtani, Upton key the comeback: In the bottom of the first, Ohtani immediately chipped away at the Cleveland lead, hammering his MLB-leading 14th home run of the season 440 feet to center. It was Ohtani’s fourth home run in the last five games.

Ohtani didn’t hit a home run his second time up, but did provide the Angels with another spark.

After he and Anthony Rendon singled to lead off the inning, Upton made it a one-run game with his three-run blast the other way to right-center — something Maddon noted as a positive sign for the slumping left fielder.

“It means you’re in a good position to hit,” Upton, who has eight home runs despite a .205 batting average and .704 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, said of going the other way. “It was good to see for me, to get in the game and be able to find that side of the field.”

Claudio surrenders game-winner: Before Tuesday, the left-handed pitching Claudio hadn’t given up a home run to a fellow left-handed batter all season. But then Naylor got just enough on his high fly ball in the eighth, barely clearing the yellow line halfway up the wall in right field that was lowered three seasons ago.

Citing the lowered line, Maddon jokingly called it a “pseudo-home run.” Otherwise, he had no complaints for his bullpen’s performance Tuesday night, which also included a scoreless inning from Aaron Slegers.

“We eventually pitched at our capabilities, and now we have to play defense like we can,” Maddon said, harkening back to his two keys for the Angels while Trout remains sidelined. “Otherwise it’s going to be very difficult to get where you want to be. Simple as that.”