Bullpen's 'bad night' spoils Soriano's strong outing

May 14th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- After being the primary focus in the offseason, the bullpen was supposed to be a strength for the Angels this season.

But it hasn’t been the case so far, and was again an issue on Monday, as right-hander José Soriano’s strong start was spoiled by relievers Adam Cimber, Matt Moore and Luis García combining to allow eight runs in the seventh inning of a 10-5 loss to the Cardinals in the series opener at Angel Stadium. Angels relievers have posted a 5.23 ERA, which ranks as the second-worst mark in the Majors this season. Last year, their 4.88 bullpen ERA was tied for 25th among MLB’s 30 clubs.

Cimber, Moore and García, however, have been solid, so manager Ron Washington said he was surprised to see the big inning from the Cardinals. St. Louis entered averaging the second-fewest runs in the Majors and hadn’t reached double digits in a game this season.

“It was a bad night,” Washington said. “We had the best of our bullpen in there. I really didn’t see it coming.”

Soriano, making his seventh start of the year after opening the season in long relief, threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, limiting the Cardinals to just two hits and three walks, with six strikeouts. He didn’t allow his first baserunner to reach until the third inning on a pitch timer violation-aided walk, and didn’t surrender his first hit until Paul Goldschmidt cracked a single in the fourth -- before it was quickly erased by an inning-ending double play off the bat of Nolan Arenado.

But things started to get dicey in the sixth, when Soriano loaded the bases with one out. He lost his command in the inning, walking Matt Carpenter and Lars Nootbaar after surrendering a double to Masyn Winn to open the frame.

“I felt great, but I lost my rhythm and my pitches for a little bit,” Soriano said through interpreter Manny Del Campo. “But things happen, and I’m trying to learn so that I can do it better the next time.”

With Soriano at 83 pitches and clearly laboring, the Angels turned to Cimber, who has been elite at stranding runners this season. Cimber had the tough task of facing Goldschmidt, but the veteran slugger never looked comfortable at the plate against Cimber’s submarine delivery -- and Cimber got him to ground into a double play aided by Zach Neto’s athleticism at shortstop.

Second baseman Kyren Paris made a high throw, but Neto was able to handle it and help Cimber strand three more runners, making him a perfect 15-for-15 on stranding inherited runners this year. He is one of only three pitchers this season to have inherited 10 or more runners and strand each of them (the others are Baltimore's Danny Coulombe, with 10, and Detroit's Alex Lange, with 16).

But Cimber, who had been unscored upon in 16 of his 18 outings this season, wasn’t as fortunate when he was asked to go out for the seventh. Arenado greeted him with a solo homer, and it snowballed from there for the Angels. Nolan Gorman and Iván Herrera followed with consecutive singles to knock Cimber from the game.

“Cim came in and got us out of that first jam,” Washington said. “He only threw two pitches, so I thought I’d put him back out there. But it didn’t work out.”

The Angels called on Moore, who gave up back-to-back singles to Brendan Donovan and Winn despite both batters being in 0-2 counts. He got Alec Burleson to pop out, but then gave up a game-tying, two-run single to Carpenter on a 3-2 fastball before walking Nootbaar load the bases -- and prompt Washington to bring in García to try to keep the game tied.

“I made a couple big mistakes not being able to expand those 0-2 pitches, and then the walk right there,” Moore said. “It was a tough night. Hopefully, I can turn the page quickly.”

García, though, plunked Goldschmidt on his first pitch to bring home the go-ahead run, and it only worsened from there despite striking out Arenado for the second out. He walked Gorman on five pitches to bring home another run, and finally gave up a single to Herrera to make it an eight-run frame.

It was yet another frustrating finish for the Angels, who had started to see their relievers pitch well since the beginning of the month. Angels relievers had posted a 2.25 ERA with an AL-leading 0.72 WHIP through their first 11 games in May before their implosion on Monday.

“Things are OK, it's not great,” Moore said. “But it’s early, and as a group I feel like we’re starting to click a little bit. Hopefully we can get a nice roll going and get on a little streak.”