Emotional season comes to 'tough' end for Halos

September 29th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- The Angels tried to avoid it, but with their 8-5 defeat to the Astros in the season finale on Sunday, they finished 2019 with 90 losses for the first time since 1999 and for only the 12th time in franchise history.

During a season that saw the Angels done in by a lack of starting pitching, it was fitting that left-hander was hit hard in his final start, allowing seven runs over 3 1/3 innings to conclude his first season in Anaheim with a 5.38 ERA in 17 outings. Their starters combined to post a 5.64 ERA, which ranked second-worst in the Majors behind only the Rockies, although that stat is a bit skewed because the Angels used their fair share of openers this year.

“Quite frankly, I'm ready at this point to put it behind me,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was a tough year."

It was a difficult first season under Ausmus, as the club had to endure the death of Tyler Skaggs on July 1, and the Angels couldn’t recover after a slide in late July. They also dealt with a host of injuries, as first baseman Albert Pujols, right fielder Kole Calhoun, infielder David Fletcher, reliever Ty Buttrey and closer Hansel Robles were the only regulars to avoid injury this season. AL MVP candidate Mike Trout’s season ended earlier in September after he underwent surgery to repair a nerve issue in his right foot.

“It was definitely tough,” said Calhoun, who might have played his last game as an Angel on Sunday. “The off-field stuff with Skaggs is hard for anybody, not just a baseball team that has to go out and play the next day or for the next three months. It’s definitely one of the tougher things. Injuries really bit us big time this year. It’s kind of been the story of the last few years, not being able to stay healthy.”

The Angels head into the offseason with an obvious goal of acquiring starting pitching, and they saw their top target in free agency dominate in person on Sunday, as impending free agent and Orange County, Calif., native Gerrit Cole threw five innings of one-run ball with 10 strikeouts. Cole broke a Major League record by striking out at least 10 batters in nine straight starts and finished the season with 326 strikeouts in 212 1/3 innings this season. He’ll be the most expensive free-agent pitcher this winter, and it’ll be interesting to see how aggressive the Angels are in pursuit of him.

But for now, the Angels will head into yet another offseason without a playoff appearance, as they haven’t made the postseason since 2014. After six postseason appearances from 2002 to 2009, they’ve only made the playoffs once over the last 10 seasons.

“It’s always a little disappointing when you go home at the end,” Ausmus said. “You want to be moving on to the playoffs, even if it’s a one-game playoff. So it’s disappointing. I’m sure the guys are looking forward to seeing their family and friends. It’s been a bit of a grind. Including Spring Training, it’s 7 1/2 months of baseball every day. The guys have worked hard.”

Angels players, however, are confident that things will get better going forward, and that a silver lining to the season was that so many youngsters received much-needed experience. Second baseman Luis Rengifo, third baseman Matt Thaiss -- who homered twice in Sunday’s loss -- first baseman Jared Walsh and starting pitchers Griffin Canning, Patrick Sandoval, José Suarez and Jaime Barria all showed flashes of their talent this season.

“There are a lot of good guys in this locker room and some guys who know how to win and want to win,” Peters said. “I don't think anybody in here has doubt moving forward. I think they'll come in here ready to rock and roll in Spring Training and bring the Angels where they need to be."