Sandoval struggles as Angels fall to Guardians in series opener

Jessica Alcheh - USA Today Sports
Patrick Sandoval gave up 8 earned runs and the Angels offense couldn't get much going at all in the 10-4 loss to the Guardians in the series opener.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Patrick Sandoval struggled immensely with his control yet again in the Angels 10-4 loss to the Guardians on Friday night. He walked four guys in just over three innings pitched and gave up three home-runs and eight earned runs overall in 3.2 innings pitched. Sandoval was coming off of back-to-back starts of 6+ innings pitched with four earned runs or less, but he looked nothing like the previous two outings. Jo Adell and Luis Rengifo continued their hot streaks in the loss with Adell hitting a solo home-run and Rengifo putting together a three-hit performance, but is was a very underwhelming day for the ball-club overall.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

When Patrick Sandoval is ahead in the count, he is one of the best left-handed pitchers in the American League, but his issue has always been that he gets behind in the count too often. After cruising to a 1-2-3 first inning where he was ahead in the count to every batter, he had a horrible rest of the game.

The next 2.2 innings of work Sandoval gave up 6 hits, 3 home-runs, 4 walks, and 8 earned runs overall in a very surprising turnaround following Sandoval’s initial easy 1st inning. It all started in the 2nd-inning with one out when Sandoval walked David Fry on five pitches then Jonathan Rodriguez on six pitches. From that point on Sandoval looked rattled and couldn’t control his pitches anymore.

In the postgame press-conference, Angels Manager Ron Washington gave clarification on his decision to leave Sandoval in to start the 4th inning despite a disastrous 3rd inning and already 70+ pitches thrown:

“I think it was my heart. I’ve seen him have that type of start and then settle in and I was hoping he’d settle in and get us some innings. It just didn’t work out and I left him out there too long.”

Washington is right, as Sandoval’s starts this season have rarely been smooth-sailing and there have been many instances where he works through a tough start and finishes strong for the team. In fact, Washington’s decision to leave Sandoval in makes even more sense considering Sandoval threw 6+ innings over the last two games and had appeared to be working through some early season struggles.

Overall on the season, Sandoval has a 5.60 ERA, 57 strikeouts, and 24 walks in 54.2 innings pitched. The 24 walks already is very alarming as last year Sandoval walked 74 batters in 144.2 innings pitched and is well on his way to walking a similar amount of batters this season.

Nonetheless, Sandoval was the team’s opening day starter and has to be more consistent for the Angels to have any chance this season. Just a few years ago, scouts were marveled by Sandoval following a season where he had a 2.91 ERA and one of the nastiest changeups in baseball metrically. That seems like a distant past considering how inconsistent Sandoval has been over the last few seasons.

Luis Rengifo has been the most consistent hitter in the Angels lineup all season and hasn’t missed a step since returning from the IL after a serious viral infection. He’s hit .300 with 2 home-runs and 5 RBI’s since he returned, including 3 hits in the series opener against the Guardians. Rengifo is primarily the team’s 2nd-Baseman, but his versatility allows him to play 3rd-Base and Shortstop as well, not to mention he’s been excellent at the plate all season.

Rengifo has the highest qualified OPS on the team at .878 and is 4th in the American League in steals with 12. This breakout that Rengifo is having is momentum for how he finished last season, hitting .331 with 12 home-runs and an OPS over .850 in 193 AB’s from July through September of 2023. Washington talked about Rengifo being good all year and how he is “finding himself” amidst his breakout season.

Though the Angels have had their fair share of trials and tribulations already in this short season, Rengifo has been a consistent bright spot an continues to keep the lineup afloat amidst injuries to players like Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.

Jo Adell hit his 10th home-run of the season and is now on pace for 32 home-runs this season overall. If he does just that he would join Mike Trout and Troy Glaus as the only home grown Angels 1st-rounders to hit 30 home-runs in a single season (via Jared Tims/X). I asked Washington about how Adell is progressing into the player they’ve envisioned him to become and he noted the frequent opportunities he is getting in 2024:

“Jo is getting a chance to play. You always heard ‘if he gets 500 at-bats he could do some damage’. This year he’s gonna get 500 AB’s and when it’s all over with we’re gonna see what kind of damage he can do.”

Adell’s hot start is not a fluke as his xwOBA of .381 is in the 92nd percentile in all of baseball and his average bat speed of 76.4 and barrel percentage of 14.4% rank in the 97th and 90th percentiles respectively. Adell is also the best hitter, metrically, against left-handed pitchers in all of baseball slugging .774 with 4 home-runs and an OPS of 1.108 in 31 AB’s. Once one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Adell is finally living up to the hype that many Angels fans envisioned for him.

Zach Neto had an MRI yesterday and it showed no damage, just inflammation. He was available to play off of the bench, but Manager Ron Washington wanted to give him a day of rest. Washington added that Neto will be back in the lineup for Saturday’s game.

Miguel Sano started his rehab assignment for the ACL Angels and was limited to 5 total innings at 3B in two games for the club so far. He has gone 2-5 with no setbacks in his rehab assignment thus far.

The Angels will look to get back on track on Saturday with Jose Soriano on the mound against Tanner Bibee. First pitch is scheduled for 6:38 PM.

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