Angels manager Joe Maddon is maintaining his hitters are on the verge of greatness, that’s these current struggles are only a matter of timing.
“You look at the numbers, you know they’re going to get better,” he said.
But they haven’t. For a lineup stacked with sluggers like Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols — the names are there. But for the second straight night in Arlington, Texas, the big bats didn’t deliver for the Angels.
In a matchup against Texas Rangers lefty Kolby Allard, a former first-round selection but whose major league career consisted of only 14 games and a 5.34 ERA prior to Saturday, the Angels offense could have been facing Sandy Koufax in his prime.
The Angels managed only four hits against Allard and a Texas bullpen with a collective ERA of 5.87.
The Halos couldn’t even manage getting a baserunner to third base at brand-new Globe Life Park.
Coming into the season, the Angels’ offense was supposed to be one of the best in baseball. But in the heart of the lineup, the bats are still malingering.
Third baseman Rendon, the Angels’ big offseason free-agent signing, is slumping at a .111 average. Japanese star Ohtani, now restricted to hitting only after another injury to his pitching arm, is batting .132.
The Angels are getting on base at only a .309 clip. After Saturday’s loss, they fell to 5-10 with 25 percent of this shortened season now played.
“These guys are better than that,” Maddon said. “We’re better than that. So in the meantime you just gotta be patient, support them and keep throwing them back out there.
“That’s how I approach moments like this.”
Once again, the lack of offense betrayed a much better than average performance by an Angels starting pitcher.
Left-hander Patrick Sandoval, a Maddon favorite, went six innings and 94 pitches, allowing only four hits.
But the big hit that Sandoval allowed — his only big mistake — came on an 0-1 fastball that Joey Gallo blasted for a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
“I felt good,” Sandoval, 23, said. “I felt I had command of most of my pitches. I made one mistake and Gallo made me pay for it. But there were a lot of positives to take away from today.”
The key for Sandoval was the usage of his slider. He threw 25 sliders and got five swings and misses on the pitch. He got 12 ground-ball outs, and kept his composure after normally sure-handed shortstop David Fletcher made a rare error on a surefire double-play ball.
Sandoval shrugged off the mistake and got Robinson Chirinos to ground into an inning-ending double play on a nearly identical grounder to Fletcher.
“It’s huge,” Sandoval said of his slider. “Last year, I didn’t fare too well against lefties and coming up in the minors, I was always told I had to throw my slider to fare well against lefties. So I’ve just been working on it as hard as I can.”
The matchup was a reunion of sorts between Allard and Sandoval, both Orange County natives who played high school baseball in the same South Coast League — Allard at San Clemente High School and Sandoval at Mission Viejo.
Both pitched well Saturday, but while Allard didn’t get the win (that went to reliever Edinson Volquez), he got bragging rights. Allard struck Trout out twice and Rendon once.
Maddon predicted a turnaround from Rendon is right around the corner. “He’s fouling off a lot of balls that would be hits,” Maddon said. “That means he’s close. It’s gonna happen, he’s going to get blazing hot.
“We gotta deal with it quickly, no question about it. These guys are capable of more. I’m just looking forward to us getting back to normal offensive patterns and hopefully maintain these strong pitching performances.”
It won’t get any easier for the Angels in Sunday’s series finale in Texas (at 11:35am PST).
The Angels will face Texas right-hander Lance Lynn, who has taken the role of staff ace with a 1-0 record, a 0.49 ERA and 24 strikeouts. Angels southpaw Andrew Heaney (1-0, 2.35 ERA 15 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings) opposes Lynn.