Angels can't conjure ninth-inning magic in loss to Astros

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Mike DiGiovanna
·5 min read
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Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani, left, is tagged out as he runs to first by Houston Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Angels' Shohei Ohtani is tagged out as he runs to first by Houston Astros pitcher Zack Greinke during the fifth inning Tuesday at Angel Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Jared Walsh shot a one-out single to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Angel Stadium began to stir again, the buzz palpable among a reduced-capacity crowd of 11,122 that sensed another late-game rally brewing.

Justin Upton followed with a 109-mph rocket toward the shortstop hole, and it appeared the Angels, who scored the winning runs in their final at-bat in their first four victories, might erase a two-run deficit.

Then Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman intervened, lunging to his left to snag Upton’s shot and throwing to second to start a rally-killing double play and close out a 4-2 victory over the Angels.

“I would have been really curious to see Jose Rojas [who was on deck] hit there, and [Anthony] Rendon was gonna hit for [Max] Stassi, so we had it kind of lined up,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “That was a well-struck ball, but it was a really good play by Bregman.”

A pair of aces dueled to a draw, Angels right-hander Dylan Bundy giving up two runs and four hits in six innings, striking out 10 and walking two, and Houston right-hander Zack Greinke giving up two runs and five hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking one.

Angels reliever Aaron Slegers threw a one-two-three seventh, and Mike Mayers retired the side in order in the eighth before handing a 2-2 game to closer Raisel Iglesias.

Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez muscled a shattered-bat single to left. Iglesias got ahead of Carlos Correa, who was booed mercilessly for the two games here, with an 0-and-2 count but left a fastball over the middle, which Correa lined for a two-run homer to right-center.

Correa celebrated by pointing at his team’s dugout as he rounded first base. Iglesias, the hard-throwing right-hander acquired from Cincinnati over the winter, has given up two homers to the 20 batters he has faced this season after yielding one homer to 91 batters faced in 2020.

“I definitely believe my stuff is still there,” Iglesias said through an interpreter. “My confidence is definitely there, also. Even if they hit 20 home runs off me, I would go out there with the same attitude. The season is long. You can’t just judge it off one week.”

The Angels took a 2-0 lead in the first when Shohei Ohtani beat out an infield single and stole second and Mike Trout pulverized a hanging slider from Greinke, sending a 464-foot homer to left-center, the fifth-longest of his career.

The ball, which left Trout’s bat at 113 mph, was so thoroughly struck that Ohtani turned at second base and raised his right hand into the air as if to wave goodbye to the baseball.

The lead evaporated in the second when Kyle Tucker hit an 0-and-2 slider from Bundy into the right-center-field seats for a solo homer and Aledmys Diaz lined an 0-and-1 slider over the left-field wall to pull Houston even 2-2.

“I just left two sliders in spots where they could easily hit them, and they made me pay with those homers,” Bundy said. “I was pissed. You don’t like giving up home runs. It makes you focus a little bit more and bear down.”

It showed. Bundy, leaning heavily on his well-placed fastball and slider, struck out six of the next 12 batters and did not give up another hit through the fifth. He escaped a second-and-third, one-out jam in the sixth by getting Correa to pop out and striking out Tucker with a 95.1-mph fastball, his final pitch of the game the hardest he has thrown since 2017.

“That’s a really good FM station,” Maddon said of Bundy’s final radar-gun reading. “It was a very convicted fastball. I didn’t know it was that hot, but it was hot.”

Angels head to windy city

The Angels will open a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday in TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Fla., where the Blue Jays, forced out of the Rogers Centre because of Canadian government restrictions during the coronavirus, will play their first two homestands.

If Toronto’s spring-training home plays like Maddon remembers it from his Grapefruit League days with Tampa Bay, the series could resemble one the Angels played in 2003 against the Montreal Expos in Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they hit 15 homers and scored 33 runs in three games.

It’s not so much the dimensions of the 8,500-seat park, which are similar to many big league stadiums except for the 363-foot gap in right-center. It’s the conditions in which games are played on the Gulf Coast, just north of Clearwater.

“The wind was constantly blowing out at that ballpark, and the ball really flew,” Maddon said. “It wasn’t one of my favorite venues. It was kind of nondescript, just a windy spring-training ballpark.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.