Joe Maddon was still talking bravely before Monday’s game between the Angels and the Astros a Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
“We’re going to get this turned around,” Maddon, the Angels’ skipper, said. “But you don’t turn a battleship on a dime.”
Instead, Maddon’s battleship got sunk again. The Astros pounded Angels starter Patrick Sandoval and then the bullpen in losing for the sixth time in their last seven games.
They hit the halfway mark of the pandemic-shortened season at 9-21, which continues the worst start to an Angels team in franchise history.
“It’s been tough, frustrating,” said first baseman Albert Pujols. “We know what kind of ballclub we have here. To have the record we have now, I think everybody’s disappointed, including the players.
“The last thing you want to do over the last 30 games is take it for granted. I think we’re going to fight and finish the last 30 strong.”
The loss overshadowed another hallmark as the 40-year-old Pujols continued to surpass career milestones.
With a single to left field that drove in Mike Trout to briefly pull the Angels to within a 5-4 deficit, Pujols notched career RBI No. 2,087, passing Alex Rodriguez on the MLB all-time list, and he’s now second only with Hank Aaron with 2,297 RBI.
The Angels had a few highlights other than Pujols’ RBI. Third baseman Anthony Rendon carried on his red-hot hitting with a single in the second to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. Shortstop David Fletcher went 3-for-5, and outfielder Justin Upton, who entered on a 1-for-37 slump, hit a solo home run in the fourth.
Sandoval got touched up for five runs in 2-2/3 innings and was removed after allowing a pair of runs with two outs in the third inning.
Maddon sent a parade of six relievers to the mound after that, and none of them escaped without giving up a run except Noe Ramirez, who has been a bright spark out of the bullpen with a 3.29 ERA.
In order to save relievers for Tuesday’s doubleheader, Maddon resorted to using backup catcher Anthony Bemboom to pitch the eighth inning. Bemboom pitched a scoreless inning with a walk.
“I think we’ll have enough (pitchers) to cover, but I’m looking to win the games,” Maddon said. “To win these games, we have to get deeper into the game with the starter.”
Maddon will have his work cut out for him.
With tropical storm Laura bearing down on the Houston area, the Angels and Astros restructured their four-game series series to conclude on Wednesday.
The teams will play a doubleheader of seven innings each on Tuesday, with the finale moved forward to 12:10pm CST so that the Angels flight can depart before the storm arrives.
The doubleheader could be rough on Maddon’s nerves unless his offense shows up with a lot of run support. In the first game, lefty Jose Suarez (0-1, 33.75 ERA) is making just his second start of the season. In Game 2, Julio Teheran (0-2, 10.38 ERA) will make his first start since being demoted to a bullpen role.