These days it doesn’t seem to matter how much power the Angels can pack into their lineup.
Two days after returning to the club after the birth of his son, Mike Trout belted a pair of home runs. And the Angels hit four round-trippers, normally enough to win.
But once manager Joe Maddon has to turn to his bullpen — which was expected to be above average this season — all bets are off.
A possibly premature pitching change by Maddon on Wednesday ended up a point of contention as the Angels smashed four home runs, but were undone again by shaky relief pitching in a 7-6 loss to the Mariners at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
“We went with the high percentage play and it just didn’t work out,” Maddon said. “We talked afterward … It’s just one of those things we made our mind up to do, and we did.”
And it didn’t work. For the fifth time in 12 games, the Angels bullpen couldn’t hold a lead and the result is a 4-8 team that — early in this pandemic shortened season — has just a 19.5% chance of reaching the 16-team 2020 playoffs.
The critical point in this one happened early.
Veteran right-hander Julio Teheran, making his Angels debut, was pitching effectively but nearing his pitch count of 55 in the third inning with a pair of Mariners on base.
Teheran said he was surprised to see Maddon emerge from the Angels dugout and relieve him with lefty Ryan Buchter.
“I wasn’t expecting to go as long, like a normal start, but I didn’t know my limit was 55 pitches,” said Teheran, whose Angels debut was delayed by a preseason bout with coronavirus. “They’ve been controlling my pitches and I know how to handle that.
“Obviously I was trying to convince Joe to stay in, but there’s a process we have to follow.”
So far in 2020 that process hasn’t been smooth. Buchter took the ball from Teheran and Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager demolished a meaty fastball an estimated 440 feet into the right-field second deck for a three-run homer.
The Angels tried to punch back but never led again.
Trout had gotten the Angels within 4-3 with a looping moonshot of a homer than just looped over the glove of Mariners center fielder Kyle Lewis in the fourth, following a solo shot to left by shortstop David Fletcher.
Max Stassi had put the Angels on top 1-0 in the first with his third homer of the season. Trout added his third homer in two games back from the paternity list in the eight with a titanic blast into the second deck in left field off Taylor Williams.
Some shaky Angels defense in the seventh inning helped Seattle cement the win.
Rookie Jo Adell, playing his second MLB game, deferred to Trout on a catchable fly ball by Aaron Nola, which fell between the outfielders for a double. The Mariners cashed in a pair of insurance runs for a 6-3 lead.
“There was nothing routine about the plays he was involved in,” Maddon said of Adell’s defense.
The big decision had happened earlier however. The move to Buchter may have seemed sound — Buchter was 2-0 and hadn’t allowed a run in five appearances. But Seager’s HR changed everything.
Teheran, a six-time Opening Day starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, got through 2-2/3 innings on 52 pitches. He gave up two hits, two walks, and struck out two.
“It doesn’t matter if you aren’t ready, you just have to go out there and compete with what you have,” Teheran said.
The Angels have Trout in their lineup, which always seems to matter in games against Seattle. Trout has hit more home runs against the Mariners than any other hitter in the league.
On Thursday, the Angels and Mariners finish off this series with a matinee game before the Angels fly to Texas to face the Rangers.
Dylan Bundy will start for the Angels and right-hander Taijuan Walker for Seattle — which may not bode well for the Mariners.
Trout has 14 at-bats and a .643 batting average against Walker with three homers and six RBI.