The Los Angeles Angels had a real chance to close the gap on their chase for the second wild card spot with two games against the Oakland Athletics. Joe Maddon — knowing the Angels were just a short hot streak away from contending — saw this as the perfect chance to play his two best starting pitchers this season in Shohei Ohtani and Jose Suarez.
However, the Halos laid an egg in Oakland, scoring just one combined run over the 18 innings of play, giving up 10 to the Athletics in a two-game sweep. Of the 10, just four were charged to a starting pitcher — Suarez — despite he and Ohtani combining to pitch 11.2 of those 18 innings. In addition, only two of his four earned runs actually came with him on the field. as Mike Mayers allowed his two inherited runners to score.
The Angels bullpen gave up six earned runs and two inherited runs out of 10 while pitching in just 6.1 innings. Maddon could have easily blamed an Angels offense that scored just one run in two games, but had harsher words for the bullpen following the sweep, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“We didn’t play badly until we got to the bullpen,” Maddon said. “We didn’t score any runs. Obviously, they pitched really well. Today’s game was not a well-played game by any means. We made some mistakes. Starting pitching for us was really good. The bullpen is when kind of things started to break down. We have to do better out of the bullpen. There’s no question about it.”
“There’s a predominantly veteran group that doesn’t beat themselves, and we did shoot ourselves in the foot,” Maddon said. “But regardless of that, we have to be able to rely on the bullpen in different situations to get us through. That’s how we’re going to win and win on a consistent basis. So that has to happen.”
The bullpen has consistently failed the Angels in recent weeks, a time where they’ve needed wins the most, as they’ve faced two division rivals that sit above them in the Wild Card standings. The Angels are 4-7 since July 5, including series losses to the Athletics and Seattle Mariners.
In that span, the Angels starters have a 3.29 ERA over 52 innings pitched. Outside of Andrew Heaney — who has given up seven runs over 9.1 innings — their starters have been incredible in this span.
The bullpen, meanwhile, has pitched just 25 innings. Despite pitching in less than half the innings, they’ve given up 18 total runs in that span compared to 19 runs by the starters. Their ERA is 6.48. Raisel Iglesias is the only Angels reliever who has not given up a run.
If the Angels want to be competitive this season, they cannot have a bullpen that consistently makes it harder to win games. Offensively, slumps happen, especially missing three of their most productive players. It’s the bullpen that has failed to perform despite being fully healthy the whole time.
Justin Upton and Mike Trout nearing return
Justin Upton is anticipating a return any day now, as he is in the middle of a rehab assignment with the Salt Lake Bees of Triple-A. Mike Trout, on the other hand, has not started his rehab assignment, but is just days away from doing so as he is running at up to 90% speed.