Angels commit four errors in sloppy loss to Rays

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Jack Harris
·6 min read
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ADDS THAT MARGOT SCORES ON A FIELDING ERROR AND A SINGLE - Tampa Bay Rays' Manuel Margot, left, scores after a single by Brandon Lowe and a fielding error by Los Angeles Angels second baseman David Fletcher as catcher Max Stassi takes a late throw during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 4, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Tampa Bay Rays' Manuel Margot scores after a single by Brandon Lowe and a fielding error by Angels second baseman David Fletcher as catcher Max Stassi takes a late throw during the first inning on Tuesday at Angel Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

On Monday afternoon, Angels manager Joe Maddon described his team’s early-season defensive woes as “surprising and disappointing.”

On Tuesday night, 8,156 fans at Angel Stadium saw exactly what he was talking about.

In an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Angels committed four errors, yielded three unearned runs and added another ugly chapter to what has become an unexpected and increasingly concerning story line amid their 13-15 start to the campaign.

In the spring, there was hope the Angels’ defense would be a strong point. So far, it’s been anything but.

“We haven’t been good,” Maddon said. “We’re better than that.”

On Tuesday, the troubles started in the first inning. With two outs, Manuel Margot hammered a grounder just to the right of shortstop José Iglesias, an offseason acquisition who was supposed to compensate for the departure of Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons.

Instead, Iglesias entered the night with a team-high seven errors, then committed an eighth by booting the bouncing ball, fumbling around for it in his feet as Margot took first.

On the very next pitch, Brandon Lowe rolled another grounder in the hole between first and second base. Coming over from his shifted position in shallow right field, second baseman David Fletcher tried to backhand the ball but instead kicked it into center. As he chased it down, Margot turned on the jets, racing all the way home from first to score on what was Fletcher’s first error of the year.

The Rays (16-15) doubled their lead with another unearned run in the fifth. Randy Arozarena led off the inning with a single, then broke for second base during the next at-bat.

Catcher Max Stassi leapt up and fired toward the bag, but his throw sailed high and into center field. Arozarena easily advanced to third, allowing him to later score on an Austin Meadows groundout.

“You’re talking about three really good defenders making mistakes tonight,” Maddon said of Iglesias, Fletcher and Stassi. Maddon later added: “I believe that’s going to go away. I know how good these guys are.”

But there was more sloppy defense in the sixth. First, third baseman Phil Gosselin — added to the MLB roster earlier in the day with Anthony Rendon still nursing a left knee contusion — failed to catch a foul ball at the dugout railing. Then, a passed ball against Stassi moved runners to second and third. After that, a weak chopper from Kevin Kiermaier bounced between Fletcher and first baseman Albert Pujols, resulting in a two-run double (one of the runs was unearned) that made it 4-0.

“We have good defenders — we have to just stay confident with them,” Maddon said, maintaining optimism even after his team’s sixth game this season with at least three errors and third game with three unearned runs.

“I want to believe it’s an anomaly moment. I know we’re better than that.”

Anomaly or not, the shaky defense has been costing the Angels over the opening month.

Entering Tuesday, they already had the worst fielding percentage in the majors (.975) and were second-to-last in defensive runs saved (-16), a metric calculated by Sports Info Solutions that rates individual players as above or below average on defense.

For a team built with ground-ball pitchers in mind, they haven’t been giving the staff much help. While the Angels’ team ERA of 5.04 entering Tuesday ranked third-worst in the majors, the club’s pitchers had a 3.85 mark in “fielding independent pitching” — a stat similar to ERA that isolates pitchers’ performances from defense and batted ball luck — which ranked ninth in MLB.

“I have a huge amount of faith in this defense,” said Tuesday’s starting pitcher Alex Cobb. “I’ve watched them for over a month and seen what they’re capable of. … It’s gonna even out on us. Those guys are too good. I just feel like we’ve been getting some fluky plays hit to us.”

The defensive blunders overshadowed what was an otherwise encouraging five-inning, eight-strikeout performance from Cobb. Relying heavily on his splitter, a pitch he struggled to execute his last time out, the right-hander induced 12 swings-and-misses and yielded only two hits, both singles.

He did walk five batters, but stranded each of them. He lowered his ERA to 5.48. And if not for the defensive issues behind him, which drove his pitch count up to 99 by the end of the fifth, he likely would have been able to work deeper into the game.

“It’s 99 because of plays that are not made,” Maddon said. “He probably should have been in the high 70s at that point, maybe 80-ish. And then you get another solid inning, and the bullpen is more rested.”

Mike Trout briefly pulled the Angels back within three in the bottom of the sixth, launching his eighth home run of the season high into the air and over the left-field wall, before reliever Ben Rowen gave up two home runs to Austin Meadows in the next two innings, a solo shot in the seventh and three-run blast in the eighth.

But the Angels’ chances Tuesday night had been long diminished by then. Their defense had already dug them a hole too large to dig out of.

Injury updates

Rendon remains day to day, according to Maddon, after fouling a ball off his knee Monday night.

“He’s real sore, but somewhat better,” Maddon said of Rendon’s condition on Tuesday.

Gosselin played third base in Tuesday’s game after having his contract selected earlier in the day. In a corresponding move, outfielder Scott Schebler was designated for assignment.

Left fielder Justin Upton suffered a rightknee contusion Tuesday after fouling a ball off his leg, forcing him to exit the game in the sixth inning. The Angels said he didn’t need an X-ray and listed his status as day-to-day.

Stassi was also removed in the ninth after an awkward head-first fall into a railing near the Rays dugout while trying to catch a foul ball in the previous inning. Maddon didn’t immediately have an update on Stassi’s status.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.