New Angels manager Joe Maddon was hardly fazed by a pandemic-shortened 60-game schedule that included six games — one-tenth of the season — against the seven-time National League West-champion Dodgers, who were coming off a franchise-record 106-win season.
“I actually love that our schedule is considered tough — that’s how you get better,” Maddon said before the season. “I’ve always said you have to beat the best to be the best.”
It was clear after the first of two Freeway Series that the Angels don’t measure up to the Dodgers, who completed a three-game sweep with an 8-3 victory on a scorching 93-degree Sunday afternoon in Angel Stadium.
In fact, the gap between the teams might be as wide as the one between Santa Clarita and San Clemente.
The Dodgers have a superior rotation and better young pitching, a more dominant bullpen, a more potent lineup — even though the Angels lead the American League in home runs and feature three-time AL most valuable player Mike Trout — and a deeper and more talented farm system.
All were on display Sunday, as Keibert Ruiz, the highly touted Dodgers catching prospect, produced a home run with his first major league swing, a solo shot to right field in the third inning, making him the seventh player in franchise history to homer in his first big league plate appearance.
Dustin May, the 22-year-old right-hander with the shock of flaming red hair and sizzling 98-mph fastball, allowed two runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking none, and relievers Brusdar Graterol, Scott Alexander and Dennis Santana combined to allow one run in 4 2/3 innings.
Max Muncy continued to emerge from an early-season funk with a two-run homer to right center in the third, Corey Seager capped a four-run fourth with a three-run shot to right, and Matt Beaty hit a solo shot to right in the sixth, giving the Dodgers a major league-high 43 homers, including 14 in their last 37 innings.
The Dodgers’ first three-game sweep in Anaheim improved their NL-best record to 16-7. The Angels (7-15) have the third-worst record in the AL and have matched their worst 22-game start in club history, set in 1976 and 2012.
“Right now, they’re better than us, there’s no question,” Maddon said. “We have to get better. They primarily beat us with pitching. They have a nice group on the field, but I like our group on the field, too. We’ll play them again this year and see where we’re at at the end of the season.”
The Dodgers won the series opener 7-4 on Friday. They won a 6-5, 10-inning game on Saturday, with Muncy hitting a game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th and Kenley Jansen retiring the side in order in the bottom of the inning, striking out Trout looking at three straight pitches to end the game.
The Dodgers, after spotting the Angels a 1-0 lead in the second, breezed Sunday to extend their win streak to five.
Homers by Ruiz and Muncy — his fifth of the season — off Angels starter Julio Teheran gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead in the third. Seager followed Mookie Betts’ run-scoring single in the fourth by hooking his fifth homer of the season to right off Angels reliever Matt Andriese for a 7-1 lead.
Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon hit his fifth homer in six games, a solo shot to center in the fourth, and Brian Goodwin added a solo shot in the sixth. But Muncy, who moved from second base to third in the second inning, helped quell potential rallies by starting crisp double plays in the sixth and seventh.
“It’s been encouraging,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of his team’s play of late. “And not only the wins that we put together, it’s how we’ve gone about it. I think it wasn’t synced up initially in the season, which is understandable. But this last week, it seems like collectively, all 28 players are playing as one. When we do that, we can be pretty good.”
David Fletcher’s fifth-inning single to center extended his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest by an Angels player since Trout hit in 17 straight in 2017. … Slumping sluggers Albert Pujols and Justin Upton were not in the lineup for a second straight game, marking the first time in Pujols’ nine-year Angels career he hasn’t started two games in a row when he wasn’t sidelined by injury. Pujols, 40, is batting .186 (11 for 59) with a .594 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and three homers in 15 games. Upton, 32, is batting .107 (six for 56) with a .405 OPS and two homers in 16 games. … The Angels flip-flopped Dylan Bundy and Griffin Canning in the rotation this week to give Bundy an extra day of rest after throwing 16 innings, including a complete game, in his last two starts. Canning will start Monday night against the San Francisco Giants on regular rest and Bundy will start Tuesday. … Catcher Jason Castro missed his second straight game because of neck stiffness.
Three observations on the Angels
Jo Adell is still looking for his first big league homer, but the rookie right fielder made solid contact. producing four batted balls with exit velocities in excess of 100 mph, a 106.3-mph groundout to second base, a 111.5-mph single to right field, a 115.5-mph single to left v— the 10th-hardest-hit ball of 2020, according to Statcast — and a 101.4-mph fly out to right field.
Adell also flashed his five-tool potential with a strong throw to second base to nail Matt Beaty, who was trying to stretch a two-out single to right-center to a double in the second. The throw saved a run, as Beaty was tagged out before Edwin Rios, who jogged home from second because of a left-hamstring injury he sustained on a double, crossed the plate.
Manager Joe Maddon said before the game Julio Teheran is still “catching up” after being slowed by the coronavirus in July. The veteran right-hander gained no ground, giving up four runs and six hits, including third-inning homers to Keibert Ruiz and Max Muncy, in 3 1/3 innings, striking out three and walking one. His ERA after three starts: 12.38.
Three observations on the Dodgers
Dustin May showcased a previously little-used changeup Sunday, effectively mixing in the pitch during a 41/3-inning, two-run start. In 18 previous MLB appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander used the changeup only seven times. But Sunday, he threw it on 12 occasions, inducing three swings and misses and one strikeout.
Corey Seager recorded his first multihit game since his return from a back injury Thursday, collecting his fifth home run and 13th RBI of the season while raising his batting average to .294, second-best on the team behind Mookie Betts.
Brusdar Graterol got two key outs in a fifth-inning relief appearance against the Angels’ two hottest hitters, getting Mike Trout to line out and inducing a ground-ball fielder’s choice against Anthony Rendon to strand the runner he inherited from May.