Up-and-down pitching splits doubleheader

May 21st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- The Angels received what they needed from the pitching staff in Game 1 of Thursday’s split doubleheader against the Twins.

Starter Alex Cobb (five innings) and Steve Cishek (two innings) combined to go the distance in the seven-inning game as the Angels coasted to a 7-1 win, thanks in part to a big offensive day from Phil Gosselin, who hit a homer and collected four RBIs.

Game 2, however, did not go as smoothly for the Halos' pitching staff in a 6-3 loss.

Starter Griffin Canning left after just two innings in which he allowed four runs and threw 68 pitches. His outing immediately got off to a rough start, as Twins slugger Miguel Sanó crushed a grand slam in the first inning on a 1-2 fastball. Canning walked four batters and threw 68 pitches before Angels manager Joe Maddon called on Hunter Strickland from the bullpen to replace the 25-year-old righty to start the third.

Canning said pitch command was an issue.

“Not throwing strikes, walking guys, just falling behind in counts and then some good at-bats that they put together kind of forced me to throw some more pitches,” he said.

Canning came into the second game of the doubleheader on a nice personal streak, having rebounded after posting an 8.40 ERA through his first four outings of the season. Over his last three starts, Canning had given up four runs (three earned) across 17 innings and had pitched five or more innings each time out to go along with a 1.59 ERA in that span.

Maddon said pitch selection made a difference in Thursday’s start, compared to Canning’s previous outings.

“He got away from his fastball,” Maddon said. “He had really good stuff. That was ace stuff today. [He] just got off his fastball in the first inning.

“I thought he got into the changeup and other pitches too much and they just kept working it. … We gave them momentum back and that was the tough part, especially on a night that I really thought when I saw him throw the first couple pitches that we might get a complete game out of him. That would have been beautiful.”

Canning relied mostly on his changeup on Thursday. The offspeed pitch accounted for 37 percent of his usage, while his four-seam fastball and slider were used at a 29 percent clip against the Twins.

Over his last three starts, Canning had primarily relied on his fastball, with its lowest usage coming in a May 7 start against the Dodgers, when he went 5 2/3 innings and allowed one run while relying on the heater for 36 percent of his 85 pitches. 

The change in pitch selection on Thursday was not planned, Canning said. Rather, it was a decision dictated by game flow. 

“I don't know if it was not really part of the game plan. Just in the moment [I] went away from it for whatever reason,” he said. “I wasn't locating it as well as I know I can. That might have played a little bit of a role, but wasn't anything that was a part of the plan going in or anything.”