Perfect into 6th, Suarez's night takes a turn

August 17th, 2022

ANAHEIM -- For 16 batters, José Suarez was unhittable on Tuesday. But his night unraveled in a hurry in the sixth inning.

Suarez opened his outing against the Mariners with 5 1/3 perfect frames, but he gave up four straight singles with one out in the sixth, then took the loss in an 8-2 defeat at Angel Stadium. The left-hander allowed three runs in the inning, and it spoiled an otherwise solid outing for Suarez, who was coming off three straight strong starts.

"I knew I was throwing a perfect game, but I wasn't paying attention to that. I was focused on throwing my game," Suarez said through an interpreter. "But that's why they have a bat and are professional baseball players. They can hit. I can't control that. That's part of the game."

Suarez, who has been working with a new changeup, cruised early, needing 65 pitches to get through five perfect frames with five strikeouts. He hadn't allowed an earned run in 22 consecutive innings at that point, as he gave up only one unearned run over his previous three outings. That included seven scoreless frames in his previous start against the A's on Aug. 8.

Even with Tuesday's tough sixth, Suarez still has a 3.20 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 45 innings over his past nine outings dating back to June 18, and a 1.19 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings over his past four starts. He fell to 4-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 15 outings this season, but with the way he’s been pitching recently, he’s put himself in a good position to be part of the Halos' rotation again next year.

“I thought he was really, really good,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “He was obviously perfect through five, and the balls hit in the sixth weren’t hit that hard.”

The sixth started innocently enough with the Angels up, 2-0, after Luis Rengifo homered in the first and added an RBI single in the third off Seattle left-hander Robbie Ray. Suarez got Curt Casali to pop out to Rengifo at second base on a 1-0 fastball for the first out of the inning, and he was 11 outs away from a perfect game.

Suarez then quickly got ahead of Adam Frazier with two strikes, but after he threw two balls, Frazier hit a perfectly placed grounder to shortstop for a clean infield single. David Fletcher got to the ball, but Frazier easily beat the throw to first to give the Mariners their first baserunner of the game.

Suarez then got ahead of Sam Haggerty with a first-pitch curveball before giving up a single to left field on a changeup on the inner half of the zone. Julio Rodríguez then jumped on a first-pitch curveball from Suarez for another single to left to load the bases.

“Julio’s ball, he got in on him there,” Nevin said. “The contact was soft. It’s not like they were smoking balls all over the yard. But good players put balls in play like that. He was perfect through five and our bullpen was really thin and you’re thinking about the third time through. He got the ball in on Julio, and he just muscled it into left.”

Suarez found himself in a tough spot with a 3-2 count against Ty France and no place to put him, and France laced a two-run single down the right-field line on a four-seam fastball to tie the game at 2. Reliever Jimmy Herget came in to replace Suarez, who threw 82 pitches, and Jesse Winker promptly delivered a go-ahead sacrifice fly to right field on a first-pitch curveball.

That third run was also charged to Suarez, which caused him to get pegged with the loss. The Angels really saw the game slip away in the ninth, when right-hander Jesse Chavez allowed five runs.

“France is a really good hitter and it was a ball down and away, and he drove it that way,” Nevin said of France’s single that chased Suarez. “It was just time to go get [Suarez]. I’m not going to say he hit a wall. I think his pitches were still good. Those balls were getting in on hitters, and sometimes, it just doesn’t go your way. But I thought he pitched really well and good enough for us to win, for sure. It just got away from us in the ninth, and a loss is a loss.”