Joe Maddon sounded defiant, if not a little bit desperate, after the Angels were beaten 8-3 by the crosstown rival Dodgers, who completed a sweep of the Halos in Anaheim.
The defiant part? Maddon insisted the Angels aren’t about to give up, not even with a 7-15 — tied for the worst start in franchise history after 22 games with similar stumbles in 1976 and 2012.
“Nobody’s quitting in here,” Maddon said after watching the Dodgers pound four home runs in easily winning a game that improved their NL-best record to 16-7.
“Right now, they’re better than us,” Maddon said. “There’s no question. We have to get better, primarily the pitching. … We’re going to keep fighting to get back to the point where we had been in the past.
“We’ll play them (the Dodgers) again this year and see where we’re at at the end of the season.”
But Maddon knows the depth of the hole the Angels are already digging in this abbreviated season, shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic to 60 games.
Even with eight teams making the playoffs this season from each league, the Angels are going to need a turnaround and it has to happen in a hurry. The Halos are 4-1/2 games behind the Houston Astros for second place in the AL West.
But the desperation sounded when Maddon when he placed the blame on his pitchers, and then on other esoteric factors.
Said Maddon: “We’ve got to pitch, you don’t win if you don’t pitch. There’s just no way around it. We have to pitch better — starting and relieving. It always begins with that. … We’ve just got to get off to better starts and not constantly have to battle from behind.”
Maddon ignored the fact that the Angels took a 1-0 lead in this game but starter Julio Teheran, acquired from the Atlanta Braves as a free agent, came unraveled early for his third straight start.
In the third inning, Dodgers catcher Keibert Ruiz crushed a solo homer in his first major-league at-bat, and then gave up a two-run shot to Max Muncy. Teheran, who started training late because of a bout with coronavirus, saw his ERA balloon to 12.38.
“I made two mistakes,” Teheran said. “At this level when you make a mistake they make you pay for it. Obviously, there were two homers, but other than that I felt I threw the ball well. I went out there and competed.”
Teheran was pulled for long reliever Matt Andriese after issuing a leadoff walk in the fourth, but Andriese didn’t fare better. He allowed a three-run homer to Corey Seager that put the game out of reach.
The Dodgers, who lead MLB with 43 homers, swept the Angels in a series at Angel Stadium since interleague play started in 1997.
On the plus side, Anthony Rendon, the marquee third baseman signed as a free agent in the winter, hit his fifth homer — a solo shot — in six games.
Top prospect Jo Adell also showed promising signs, ripping two singles and hitting the ball over 100mph off the bat in all four at-bats. Shortstop David Fletcher also had a base hit to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.
Other than seemingly wishing his pitching staff would suddenly start pitching better, Maddon relied on optimism with a twist.
“They (the Dodgers) have a nice group on the field, but I like our group on the field, too,” Maddon said. “I think our guys are fine. It’s just that it’s a different vibe in the ballpark, so it’s going to feel that way even more.”
The near-empty Angel Stadium had the same vibe for both teams. The Dodgers were the team that it didn’t seem to bother.