Sandoval lacking support as Angels stall in shadows

June 13th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- The power at the plate is certainly there. The pitching, undoubtedly, has the key pieces to be one of the best staffs in baseball. The Angels just need to find the consistency to have all their cylinders firing at once.

On the heels of their second win since late May, the Angels dropped the series finale to the Mets, 4-1, Sunday evening at Angel Stadium. The Angels have now lost 16 of their last 18 games, as well as their fifth consecutive series.

The cause behind the loss that pushed Los Angeles four games below .500 could be pinpointed to the shadows of the late afternoon sun. The shadows slowly crept their way across the field, hindering visibility on the both sides of the ball.

"I'm not gonna make excuses for them, I'm making excuses for both sides -- that's a difficult time to see the ball,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “It's 4 o'clock, as soon as the shadows creep across the pitcher -- believe me I played here, it was the same thing 20 years ago when I was here -- it is extremely difficult to see, and they took advantage of it."

While New York made loud contact from the plate, the offensive production behind Patrick Sandoval’s six innings of two-run ball was a stark contrast from the previous night.

Mike Trout’s RBI single to left field off right-hander Taijuan Walker in the first inning was the only run of support that Sandoval received. The Angels were blanked across the board the rest of the way as Walker and the Mets’ bullpen retired 14 consecutive batters between the fourth and eighth innings.

There was a sense in the first inning that the Angels were picking up where they left off on Saturday night. Four of the first five batters in the game that Los Angeles sent to the plate reached safely via a single, with Trout’s line drive plating Brandon Marsh.

"I'm not making any excuses, but it's tough to see," Trout said of the visibility at the plate. "We just got to turn the page and try to win a game [against the Dodgers]."

Walker’s arsenal was a tall order for the Angels. His splitter accounted for a called-strike-whiff rate of 45%, as the Angels swung and missed on 18 of his 97 pitches. Walker’s velocity registered below his yearly average in four of his five pitches, but the movement in the strike zone was enough to keep the Angels off balance.

As a team, the Angels struck out 16 times Sunday, with 10 being at the mercy of Walker.

"Today was a tough baseball game," Nevin said. "Walker threw the ball great. You tip your hat. You look at his pitch numbers and his efficiency of his pitches, he was in the zone a lot. He didn't really walk anybody in the big moments when it mattered and then he recovered when he got a guy on base. Other than the first inning, Walker pitched a heck of a game."

Though Sandoval shouldered his first loss in over a month, he pitched his way through the shadows to limit any advantage the Mets could find.

New York broke through twice against him. A defensive blunder from Tyler Wade in center field in the third resulted in New York’s first run as the ball off the bat of Starling Marte was lost in the sun, while the second run off the left-hander was the consequence of a fastball left high in the zone for J.D. Davis to launch to left field. It was the first homer Sandoval has allowed in 10 starts this year.

"You always wish that you're going to score more runs than the other team, but these guys are professional hitters," Sandoval said of his teammates. "They go about their business the right way. There's gonna be days like this with every team."