Mere hours after his manager sang his praises, Angels starter Julio Teheran took the mound in Anaheim with something to prove. His team, far on the outskirts of the playoff race, needed him to perform as he did during a brief stretch earlier this month — well enough to keep the game in reach for the Angels’ surging offense. Well enough for Teheran to distance himself from his last failed outing.
But the veteran did none of those things. Teheran pitched one inning and faced an additional two Texas batters before departing with none out. He was charged with three runs, all of which scored on homers, in a 7-2 loss to the Rangers. Angels batters didn’t pick Teheran up, held to five hits by three rookies and a young pitcher in Kolby Allard who struggled so mightily in the rotation he was moved to the bullpen.
“I’ve seen this guy really good in the past,” Joe Maddon said of Teheran before the Angels fell to 23-31, ensuring their fifth consecutive losing season. “I’ve had a lot of faith in him. I still do. It’s just about counts, making pitches when he needs to and softening up contact a bit.”
Teheran was on a short leash, so the Rangers’ ability to square up his offerings ended his day after just 31 pitches. The last three balls the Rangers put in play against Teheran — Joey Gallo’s two-run homer in the first, a line out and Anderson Tejeda’s leadoff shot in the second — left the bat at an average exit velocity of 109 mph.
Teheran didn’t get a chance to make the adjustments starter Andrew Heaney did a night earlier, when he rebounded from a three-run first to pitch 6-2/3 innings.
“It wasn’t going to get any better,” Maddon said.
The shortened start didn’t sit well with Teheran, who engaged in a drawn-out chat with Maddon on the mound and again in the dugout moments later.
“I was just reassuring him that it's just this time of the year,” Maddon said. “‘It's not May. It’s September. I do need to have a shorter leash and it looked like they were on you. I know you're gonna work through this. I'm absolutely certain of that. But there's just no time to do it right now.’ And furthermore, I went on to point out that this is about the team first, which he totally agreed with.”
Teheran’s ineffectiveness has been a season-long problem. He joined the team in early August after a bout with COVID-19, which caused him to miss most of the July training camp, and needed a few outings to find his best stuff. After a brief stint in the bullpen, Teheran put together promising back-to-back starts.
But his next three outings fell flat.
Teheran said his command was better than his last start, in which he gave up four runs and three hits in two innings against Arizona. He wanted to take another stab at the Rangers lineup, confident in his evolving plans for the hitters.
“I could have stayed out there,” said Teheran, whom the Angels last winter signed to a one-year contract worth $9 million because they were encouraged by his track record of consistency. “We saw what Heaney did [Saturday] night. He was able to keep us in the game. … That was in my mind. That’s how you prepare. Doesn’t matter if you give up runs. You just wanna stay in the game and compete. I was sad I couldn’t stay.”
The Angels arrived at their home field Sunday morning 3½ games out of second place in the American League West. Mathematically, the Angels haven’t been eliminated from the race. Realistically, there are too many variables for the Angels to crack open the postseason window. Chief among them is the schedule. After Monday’s series finale with the Rangers, the Angels’ final five games are against two of baseball’s top teams — the San Diego Padres and Dodgers.
Teheran’s disappointing outing and the bats' silence in response to rookie starter Kyle Cody, a late-blooming and hard-throwing prospect who retired his final 11 batters, pushed the Angels further toward the margins.
Angels infielder Franklin Barreto, acquired in the trade of Tommy La Stella to Oakland, will undergo surgery Tuesday. He injured his left shoulder sliding into second on a steal attempt this month. The Angels won’t know how much recovery time he will need until after the procedure. Barreto, 24, is under team control through 2024 but is out of minor league options. . . . Justin Upton lined a double over the head of Rangers left fielder Willie Calhoun on the first pitch he saw since taking a fastball off the helmet Friday.