The 2020 Angels should be built for contention for a postseason spot in this year’s 60-game race to MLB’s one-time 16-team playoffs.
But they’ve got to do the little things — and the big things — better than this.
Sloppy defense was the turning point in the fourth inning of a game the Angels almost certainly could-have, should-have won. But the Texas Rangers, hosting the Angels for the first time at their new Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, scored three unearned runs in that frame Friday night en route to a 4-3 win.
The loss left the Angels at 5-9 and in third place in the American League West. Surprisingly, the Angels are only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot with 48 games to play, hardly insurmountable — but not if they continue to play like this.
Angels manager Joe Maddon didn’t sugarcoat the defeat. “We just didn’t execute up to our abilities tonight,” he said. “But you at all that, and we still had plenty of opportunities to win that game.”
Angels centerfielder Mike Trout did what is expected of him, especially on his birthday.
Trout, who turned 29 Friday, homered for the fifth time in his career on his birthday. His 444-foot blast into the second deck in left field drove in leadoff man David Fletcher for a 2-0 Angels lead just minutes into the game.
But it wouldn’t last. The Angels still led 3-1 in the fourth when it got ugly.
Right-hander Griffin Canning gave up a leadoff single to Todd Frazier then walked Willie Calhoun. With one out, Canning seemed to have induced an inning-ending double play when Texas’ Isaiah Kiner-Falefa hit a sharp routine grounder to second baseman Tommy La Stella, who fumbled the easy chance.
“Tommy said he just missed it,” Maddon said. “Tommy will make that play 11 out of 10 times and he just missed it tonight. Obviously, that was a big play in the game.
“But it’s called baseball. Things like that occur.”
And Canning, who said he prides himself on being able to shake off teammates’ errors, couldn’t stop the bleeding.
He walked Robinson Chirinos to force in a run. Canning got an out on a force play at home, but then sailed a pickoff attempt into center field, bringing in the tying run. Canning then walked Shin-Soo Choo to load the bases again and was pulled for Mike Mayers by Maddon.
Mayers hit the next batter, Nick Solak, in the shoulder with the next pitch, forcing in the Rangers’ go-ahead score.
It wasn’t pretty, but neither was the Angels’ attempted comeback. The Angels bullpen kept Texas off the scoreboard, but once again, the Angels couldn’t cash in opportunities with runners on base.
The Angels had five runners on base in the sixth and seventh but couldn’t get a clutch hit. They had the bases loaded in the seventh but a La Stella pop-up ended the threat.
The list of the guilty in the Angels’ lineup included their most potent run producers. Batting third, Shohei Ohtani was 0 for 4 and saw his average drop to .147.
Anthony Rendon, signed for his elite defense at third base as well as his RBI potential, was 0 for 3 and is .121 on the season.
Said Maddon: “We’ve gotta get those guys rocking and rolling. (We had) the right guys up at the right time, and it just didn’t play.”
Even Trout wasn’t immune. With two outs in the ninth, Trout almost tied the game when he hit a home-run distance drive just foul in right field, struck out, ending this game.
Canning, one of the bright spots in the rotation so far, wasn’t his best, with six walks in 3-2/3 innings.
“It was just one of those nights where I couldn’t find my release point — didn’t get in any type of rhythm,” Canning said. “That’s pretty much it. Pretty simple.”