ANAHEIM -- On paper, Sunday's series finale vs. the Royals seemed to be a favorable matchup for the Angels in their quest to get back to .500 for the first time since April 15, after falling to a season-worst record of 9-16 on April 24.
After all, left-hander Tyler Skaggs entered the contest having allowed just one run in 26 innings against Kansas City in his career. But Skaggs scuffled through a 34-pitch third inning that saw the Royals score three runs, while the Halos’ offense was held in check by lefty Danny Duffy in a 5-1 loss at Angel Stadium that dropped them to 22-24.
Skaggs got through 5 2/3 innings, but he was charged with four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks, with seven strikeouts and 18 swings and misses. Kansas City hit just four balls with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more off of Skaggs, but one was a key two-run double (97.6 mph) from Hunter Dozier in the third.
"I thought I threw the ball the pretty well,” said Skaggs, who dropped to 4-4 with 5.01 ERA. “I think there was honestly one hard-hit ball -- the double. I kind of left it middle. Other than that, I thought I threw the ball really well. I threw a lot of strikes today.”
Skaggs struck out three through two scoreless innings, but he ran into trouble in that third frame after walking Whit Merrifield on a 3-2 fastball above the zone and allowing a single to Nicky Lopez. Adalberto Mondesi then dropped in a bloop single to right with Kole Calhoun attempting to deke Merrifield. The ball, however, took an awkward hop after hitting the grass and got by Calhoun, which allowed Merrifield to score while both runners advanced. Calhoun was charged with an error on the play.
“It’s right in that gray area,” Calhoun said. “Maybe I have a chance to get it. If I miss it, we’re in trouble. I decided to check up on it and it skipped away from me. That’s a big part of the game right there.”
Skaggs bounced back to strike out Alex Gordon, but he surrendered a two-run double to Dozier that gave the Royals an early lead they would never relinquish. One of the three runs in that inning was unearned due to the error.
The left-hander was at 72 pitches through three innings, but he became more efficient and settled down until getting into trouble again in the sixth after issuing a leadoff walk to Gordon. Skaggs then gave up a bloop RBI single to Chris Owings with two outs on his 110th pitch of the afternoon, which was tied for the third-most pitches he’s thrown in his seven-year career. It was also the highest total by an Angels pitcher this year, as the previous high was 101 pitches.
"I thought Skaggs pitched pretty well, actually,” Halos manager Brad Ausmus said. “He gave up those three runs early, and then they tacked on the run at the end. But they weren't taking good swings off of him. He was getting soft contact. Even that fourth run was on a bloop single to right. I thought it was a good effort for him."
Angels' struggles vs. lefties continue
Skaggs wasn’t helped by the Angels’ offense, as they managed to score just once against Duffy over six innings. Kevan Smith brought home that run with a one-out double in the fourth, but he and Tommy La Stella were stranded on the corners after Zack Cozart popped out and David Fletcher grounded out to end the inning.
The Halos fell to 5-12 against left-handed starters this year and their .210 average against lefties is the worst mark in the Majors. But Los Angeles can’t figure out why that’s been the case, especially with a lineup that features mostly right-handed hitters.
“I don’t know -- you guys can make up theories,” Calhoun said. “Today we ran into a guy who pitched well. Duffy pitched well. You can’t take anything away from him. Today was probably the best I’ve seen him throw, personally. I don’t know if it's coincidence or [if] we’ve run into some tough lefties, but I think as the season progresses, that will head in our favor a little more.”
Shortstop Andrelton Simmons had a similar take, but it is telling the Angels were tied for last in the Majors in batting average against lefties last year as well.
"Maybe the lefties just decide to have their best games against us on those days," Simmons said. "No real theory."