Miscues plague Angels in 9-6 loss to Astros in Houston

Livan Soto made a few costly miscues in the absence of Zach Neto and the Angels comeback fell just short

The Los Angeles Angels started to piece together some hits late in their 9-6 loss to the Houston Astros, but it was too late following an Alex Bregman grand slam given up by Jacob Webb (who came into the game with the bases loaded with one out in the 4th inning) that put the Astros up 7-1. The Angels now have lost the first 3 games of this series in Houston and have lost 5 out of their last 7 games overall, now with a 30-30 .500 record despite being 5 games over .500 just over a week ago. 

Here are three takeaways from the game: 

Miscues at SS without Neto kill Angels

Zach Neto left yesterday’s game with a bruised foot after being hit by a pitch, and though X-rays came back negative, he was forced to miss Saturdays contest vs. the Astros. That meant Livan Soto (who is not nearly as adept of a defensive shortstop as Neto) had to jump in and play SS in Neto’s absence. In the 4th inning, Soto was late to a ball up the middle that could have been a double play if his first step was quicker, a play Neto likely would have made and the Angels would have been out of the inning down just 2-1. Instead, that ball got through the middle and two guys were on with 1 out still.

On the next play, Soto yet again had a chance at a double play and botched it as starting pitcher Patrick Sandoval got Jeremy Pena to ground the ball to SS where Soto bobbled the ball and didn’t even get one out. If Soto had fielded it cleanly, another double play would have ended the inning with the Angels down only 2-1 and even if he couldn’t have gotten Pena out at first, he would have at least gotten the man at second. Soto is young and has hit well in the Majors in his brief time over the last two years for the Angels, but his defensive miscues helped cost the Angels this game, and shows how instrumental Zach Neto is to the team because of his elite defense at SS. 

Turns out Ben Joyce is human

Manager Phil Nevin trotted flame-throwing RHP Ben Joyce out there for his second game in a row (his first back-to-back appearances made in his MLB career) and though the velocity was elite as always (he was sitting 102) Chas McCormick got a hold of one of the heaters and took it well over 400 feet to light center. This should have been expected, considering Joyce throws so hard if guys can somehow catch up and put the barrel on his fastball, it will go very far.

This happened right after the Angels squirmed back within two to make it a 7-5 game, which quickly became 8-5 after Joyce’s homer given up. That homer got to Joyce’s head (which happens a lot to young pitchers) as the next few batters got hits, which turned into a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubon shortly after. Overall, Joyce went through his first growing pain at the MLB level and sheer dominance shouldn’t be expected from him all the time considering he’s still just 22 years old. 

Trout continues his cold streak

Mike Trout’s average is down too .267 and despite an RBI single in the 7th, Trout has gone just 1 hit in his last 11 at bats. Going 0-4 against Framber Valdez made sense, considering his career average vs Valdez is just over .100, but for a player of his caliber, 1-11 stretches are unacceptable, especially for a team that solely relies on his and Shohei Ohtani’s production to win games. This is indicative in the Angels record during Trouts 1-11 stretch (0-3) and the team is now back to .500 despite being 5 games over .500 just over a week ago following a sweep of the Red Sox.  

The Angels have one more chance Sunday to avoid being swept by the Astros before they come back home for a 3 game series vs. the Cubs. First pitch Sunday is at 11:10 PST.