'We can't get off track': Angels hold team meeting after falling to 0-2

Canning, bullpen struggle to hold off Orioles' bats in loss

March 31st, 2024

BALTIMORE -- Throughout Spring Training new pitching coach Barry Enright and bullpen coach Steve Karsay preached the importance of getting ahead of hitters and the dangers that come with being behind in the count.

Right-hander Griffin Canning found out first-hand just how important that is in his 2024 debut, as most of the damage that came against him in five-plus innings came when he fell behind hitters. Canning gave up five runs on seven hits and a walk in a 13-4 loss to the Orioles on Saturday at Camden Yards that dropped the Angels to 0-2 on the young season.

“We talked about that the whole spring, trying to get to two strikes as quick as we possibly could, and these two games we haven’t been able to do that,” said manager Ron Washington. “But I know it’s in them. And I like the way Griffin came back and fought.”

Washington held a team meeting after the loss to reinforce that message to his team that he believes in them and that it’s only two games into a long season.

“Just wanted to let them know they’ve played only two games and we can’t get off track,” Washington said. “Our focus is on a 162-game championship season. Not two games. The two games haven’t gone like we wanted, but we just got to make certain that we come to the ballpark ready to go.”

Angels players responded well to Washington’s message, as they believed it was necessary after two lackluster performances to open the year.

“We all need to take a look at what we did tonight and learn from it, and then turn the page quickly,” said right fielder Taylor Ward. “I just think individually. Like there's stuff that I did that I could do better. And I think everyone could probably say that too. And we’ve gotta learn from it. I think it’s great everything Wash has done so far.”

Canning had trouble from the start, as the first three pitches he threw to Gunnar Henderson were balls. He got back into a 3-2 count but surrendered a leadoff blast on a fastball way below the zone. But Henderson was hunting a fastball because of the count and was able to drive it 419 feet over the right-center-field fence to put the Angels in a quick hole.

The Orioles added another run in the first on an RBI double from Ryan Mountcastle, who ripped a 1-0 changeup after Canning failed to throw a first-pitch strike.

“It was a tough first inning falling behind there," Canning said. "You don’t want to walk the first guy. So that happens. But I felt like when I didn’t have my fastball command in the zone, it was tougher.”

Canning settled down after the first, giving up another run in the third on an RBI double from Mountcastle on a 2-1 slider after again falling behind in the count. But he got through five innings on 81 pitches despite laboring a bit in the fifth.

He went back out for the sixth and it all unraveled for the Angels, as Canning had trouble throwing strikes. He walked Mountcastle on seven pitches before giving up a single to Ryan O’Hearn on a 3-2 slider to put runners at the corners.

It ended Canning’s day after 96 pitches and Luis García came in but struggled mightily in his first relief appearance of the season. He also fell behind several hitters and didn’t record an out, as all four batters he faced reached, including Ramón Urías on an error by shortstop Zach Neto.

Right-hander Guillermo Zuñiga was brought in for his Angels debut but also was hit hard, serving up a two-run triple to Henderson and a three-run homer to Anthony Santander to make it a nine-run inning. The Angels surrendered all nine runs with nobody out.

“Until then we were in the ballgame, but we just lost in the sixth,” Washington said. “We just couldn't stop them there. No matter who we brought in.”

It marked the second straight blowout loss for the Angels to open the season against the Orioles. But they’ll look to shake it off behind lefty Reid Detmers on Sunday, who has seen how important it is to get ahead of hitters, as left-hander Patrick Sandoval struggled with it in his short start on Thursday as well as Canning and the relievers on Saturday.

“We’ve worked too hard for this to happen,” catcher Logan O’Hoppe said. “It’s just two games and we’ve got 160 left. So no one is hitting the panic button just yet. We're not happy with it by any means, but just trusting the process and coming in to work tomorrow.”