Halos' rally comes up short in series finale

June 16th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- There’s not much more frustrating than half a job done. No one knows this better than the Angels, who again played well enough to hang tight on Sunday but couldn’t seize control when they needed to at Tropicana Field.

As a result, the Halos once again flirted with the .500 benchmark and once again fell just short. Sunday’s finale presented the team its sixth chance since April 15 to draw even on the season. Just as in the previous five, the Angels lacked a finishing move to get over the hump and settled with a four-game series split with the Rays after a 6-5 loss.

“We split a series with a good team, which I think is pretty good,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. “We could easily have taken three out of four from these guys, and now we're going to head into Toronto and hopefully get this thing going and start getting hot again.”

Things started off on the right foot. The Angels loaded the bases off Rays opener Ryne Stanek with no outs in the first inning using Tommy La Stella’s hustle, Mike Trout’s single and a walk from Shohei Ohtani.

Albert Pujols was up next, and he boosted a deep sacrifice fly to score one and get the ball rolling. Except the offense stalled there, with Cesar Puello grounding into a double play to end the frame.

The pattern continued as the game progressed: The Halos had runners at the corners in the second inning and could not convert. The bases were full again in the third with one out, and again the Angels sputtered, scoring just once on a David Fletcher sacrifice fly.

“Obviously when you have guys on base, you don't like seeing potential runs slip away,” Halos manager Brad Ausmus said. “I just give [the Rays] credit, too. They pitched pretty well.”

Three Angels hitters reached in the fifth as well and -- you guessed it -- just one managed to make it home. The eighth inning presented another opportunity, and the Halos had runners on first and second with one out before a Tampa Bay double play crushed the rally.

Mike Trout gave the Angels a final boost with a two-run shot in the ninth inning, his 19th home run of the season, before Rays closer Diego Castillo squashed the Halos’ rally.

Had the Angels exploited any of their earlier situations, Trout’s homer would likely have been a victory lap on what would have been a great series win. Instead, while five runs were certainly better than none, it wasn’t enough against Tampa Bay, which entered the series at the top of the American League East.

The shame Sunday came in that the loss spoiled a pretty solid performance from rookie Griffin Canning, who struck out seven, walked none and held the Rays to four earned runs on six hits during his six innings.

Most of Canning’s damage came via big hits but not in big situations: a pair of solo homers and an RBI triple. While Canning has typically induced softer contact in his career, the shift to greater exit velocity didn’t especially concern Ausmus, who offered, “Greg Maddux got hit hard once in a while, too.”

“When you don't have your best stuff or your best command and you're still getting into the second half of the game it's a good sign, especially for a young pitcher,” Ausmus added. “If [the hard hits] become a trend, we'll be more concerned, but not one game.”

The right-hander, who was promoted from Triple-A Salt Lake on April 30, has tallied 54 punchouts against 10 walks over the first nine starts of his career. The strikeout total is second in Angels history through a pitcher’s first nine starts, behind Ohtani (61).

“When things went wrong [Sunday], I was just behind in the count,” Canning said. “Overall, I felt really good. I had really good stuff, I just [threw] a couple of bad pitches here and there, and they made me pay.”