Halos' scoring troubles continue in shutout loss to Cubs

July 7th, 2024

CHICAGO -- After winning seven of their last nine games in June to finish the month with a 15-11 record, the Angels were hoping to build on that in July while facing several below .500 clubs.

But so far, the Angels have scuffled this month, losing five of six to the A’s and Cubs, including being held to just three hits in a 5-0 loss to Chicago in the series finale on Sunday at Wrigley Field. The offense has gone dry in July outside of their 7-0 win on Saturday, as the Halos have scored just 13 runs over their past six games, including being shut out three times.

Manager Ron Washington, however, said he’s not overly worried about his club’s recent skid, as it's a young team and it’s part of the process.

“It's not concerning because I know we're dealing with young kids out there and they just have to figure out how to come every day and be on top of their game,” Washington said. “They just haven't figured that out yet. So all we can do is keep staying with the process and keep working until it comes to fruition.”

On a windy and rainy Chicago afternoon, the Angels couldn’t get anything going against right-hander Hayden Wesneski, who limited them to one hit and a walk over 6 1/3 innings. The lone hit was a single from Brandon Drury with one out in the first. They only struck out twice against Wesneski but failed to produce hard contact.

Their only scoring opportunity against him came in the seventh, when they had two runners on with one out after Taylor Ward reached on an error and Willie Calhoun drew a walk. But reliever Porter Hodge got Logan O'Hoppe to ground out back to the mound before Zach Neto flied out to right to end the inning to strand two runners in scoring position.

The Angels attempted to rally late with two hits and a walk in the ninth to load the bases with two outs and force the Cubs to bring in closer Héctor Neris. But Neto struck out to end the game.

“We just couldn’t get anything going,” Washington said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Right-hander , making his second start since coming off the injured list on Tuesday after missing 15 days with an abdominal infection, wasn’t quite as sharp as usual and had to work his way through several stressful innings. He got through five innings on 73 pitches, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk.

The Cubs did their damage against Soriano in the third, when Dansby Swanson singled and Miles Mastrobuoni reached on a fielder's choice, as Neto got to the ball at shortstop and tried to tag second instead of throwing to first. The Cubs capitalized, as Miguel Amaya brought home the game's first run with a single before Nico Hoerner followed with a sacrifice fly.

“That was a decision,” Washington said of Neto’s miscue. “When the ball takes you that far away from the bag, you don't try to run back to it. You just go for the out.”

Soriano surrendered another run in the fifth, but it came on a ground-ball double play from Michael Busch that helped him escape further trouble. He fell to 4-7 with a 3.87 ERA in 81 1/3 innings over 14 starts and two relief appearances this year.

“I didn’t change anything after [the second inning],” Soriano said through interpreter Manny Del Campo. “They just put together some hits and scored on me.”

After their forgettable road trip through Oakland and Chicago, the Angels host the Rangers for three games and the first-place Mariners for four more before the All-Star break. Washington wants to see his club finish the first half strong, especially with veteran third baseman Anthony Rendon returning from his lengthy injured list stint as early as Monday. Mike Trout is also targeting a return in late July, which gives the Angels some optimism for the second half.

“I think it's important that we go home and get back on track,” Washington said. “We left home and it seemed like we forgot what we were doing. And then yesterday, we played a pretty good ballgame and I thought we had woken up but it didn't happen. We started playing pretty good at home so maybe that can get us back on track. But it would be outstanding to finish this first half with a great homestand.”