LOS ANGELES— Regardless of whether someone is a fan of the Angels or just covering them, they would have to admit how painful it is to see a team with so much promise lose all their momentum right in front of everyone’s eyes. Just over 10 days ago on June 27th, I went to Angel Stadium and covered an epic Shohei Ohtani performance where he dominated on the mound and hit two monster home runs as the Angels defeated the White Sox 4-2. Despite losing two out of three games to the Rockies the previous series, it had seemed like the Halos had bounced back as they were 7 games over .500 at 44-37 and right in the mix for the 3rd wild card spot.
Following Friday’s underwhelming performance, the Angels are now .500 at 45-45 and despite it being a long season, it feels as if their playoff chances have washed away in the nearby Pacific Ocean. Friday’s abysmal showing against the Dodgers was reminiscent of the last time they played them a few weeks back (where they entered the two-game series on a hot streak and their bats turned cold against the Dodgers), but this time with less pitching. In the previous series, both Reid Detmers and Ohtani dominated on the mound and weren’t given any run support, but this time Griffin Canning, Tyler Anderson, and Aaron Loup simply didn’t provide the Angels bats with any chance to win.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
Starting Pitching remains an issue
Although their run production has been far from ideal, the starting pitching simply hasn’t been doing its job over the last week. Griffin Canning had put together 5 quality starts over his last 6 appearances entering last Friday’s outing against the Diamondbacks where he gave up a Grand Slam and 5 runs overall. His location was atrocious in that outing as the walks led to the one bad pitch he threw the entire game (which happened to be a 3-2 pitch right down the middle to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. who then hit a Grand Slam) and it didn’t improve against the Dodgers on Friday night.
Though he only walked one hitter through 2.2 innings, his location was off, giving up 3 home runs to Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and Freddie Freeman before getting pulled before finishing the 3rd inning. Canning wasn’t even throwing competitive pitches as Freeman’s home run was on a first pitch fastball right over the heart of the plate and both Martinez and Betts’ home runs were on curve balls that stayed up in the zone.
Tyler Anderson didn’t seem to learn the lesson either as Betts took another pitch right down the middle (this time a cutter, not a curve) and launched it for his second home run of the night. What is so disappointing to see is that both Canning and Anderson had been pitching so well over the last month and even when the bats were asleep, pitching was the Angels lifesaver that kept them in games. Now, Detmers is next up and he’s been pitching great too…can he stop the skid and lead the Angels to victory?
Mickey Moniak continues to shine
Angels Manager Phil Nevin switched his lineup up a little bit on Friday night, batting Mickey Moniak (who usually hits leadoff) in the 3 position and moving Ohtani to the leadoff spot. With some of the Halos best hitters out of the lineup due to injuries, putting the extra base hit threat in Moniak in the 3 hole made a lot of sense, considering he has been hitting a lot of home-runs without many runners on base, and Ohtani has been struggling over the last few games.
Ohtani being in the leadoff spot put a lot of pressure on Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin, as Ohtani was able to draw a walk and hit a single, the latter of which forced Gonsolin to pitch to Moniak who launched his 10th home run of the year, a 3-run shot in the 4th inning to get the Angels within one run. In between, the struggling Taylor Ward mustered together an infield single, but Moniak continues to be one of the only lights in the tunnel right now for the Halos as he’s hitting .310 with 10 home runs, 28 RBI’s, and an OPS of .992 amidst a breakout campaign.
Aaron Loup struggles tremendously despite recent progressions
Aaron Loup had one of the worst performances of any reliever on the Angels this season, giving up 4 runs in just 1 inning pitched. Loup started off the bottom of the 8th inning with a leadoff walk to Miguel Vargas (leadoff walks usually don’t well), then got James Outman to ground into a fielders choice. With 1 out and Outman on first, it had seemed like Loup was just one pitch away from getting out of the inning with a double-play, but Miguel Rojas (possibly the weakest hitter in the Dodgers lineup) hit an RBI double to drive in Vargas.
After intentionally walking Betts, Loup didn’t get much help from shortstop Andrew Velasquez, as Freeman grounded into a fielders choice to second and then Velasquez made a throwing error allowing Rojas to score. It got even worse for Loup, who gave up a 2-run home run to Will Smith before getting Max Muncy to fly out to end the inning. The damage was already done as the Dodgers took a commanding 11-4 lead entering the top of the 9th inning.
Loup has had an disappointing tenure with the Angels after they gave him a 2-year $17 million dollar contract following a career season on the Mets in in 2021. However, Loup had given up just 1 earned run over his last 6 innings and had been turning his season around before Friday’s meltdown against the Dodgers. Either way, even with all of the injuries the Angels have, Loup has not proven he can be the reliable high-leverage reliever they signed him to be, but he will continue to pitch since the Angels only have two left-handed relievers.
The Angels will play the final game of this two-game series against the Dodgers Saturday with Reid Detmers set to pitch for the Angels and the Dodgers are undecided on who will start for them. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 PST.