ANAHEIM -- Lefty José Suarez excelled in nine relief appearances this season, but that success didn't translate in his first start of the season on Monday against the Red Sox.
Suarez, who entered with a 1.98 ERA in 27 1/3 innings and replaced Dylan Bundy in the rotation, struggled with his control and lasted just three innings in a 5-4 loss in the series opener at Angel Stadium. Suarez allowed two runs on three hits and four walks to see his ERA rise to 2.37.
"Suarez had decent stuff, but he just didn't have that vibe going on that he had in previous outings," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "I thought he got a little quick body-wise. He got out of that nice pace where he breathes, drops his shoulders and then goes. It just started to speed up on him and that happens. It's a good learning experience.”
Suarez started the game with two straight strikeouts before losing his command, walking consecutive batters before getting Hunter Renfroe to pop up to second to end the inning. Suarez threw 25 pitches in the frame, which didn’t bode well for him pitching deep as he was on a restricted pitch count of roughly 75-80 pitches.
His troubles began in the second, when he served up a solo homer to Christian Arroyo on a 2-0 fastball, and then walked Marwin Gonzalez and gave up a single to Bobby Dalbec. After he struck out Kiké Hernández for the second out, he gave up an RBI single to Rafael Devers that gave Boston an early 2-0 lead. Suarez, however, was able to strand two runners by getting J.D. Martinez to fly out to right to end the frame.
"I was working a little faster than usual,” Suarez said through an interpreter. “It was a little different than what I was doing in the bullpen. So I need to work on slowing things down."
Suarez walked another batter in a scoreless third, but his night was done after needing 75 pitches to record nine outs. The left-hander, though, will remain in the rotation and should be on a normal pitch count in his next start. He was coming off an outing in which he threw 56 pitches and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings of relief against the Yankees on June 28.
“He got stretched out well going into his next start, which is a good thing," Maddon said. "I haven't lost any faith in him.”
Suarez was relieved by Bundy, who scuffled himself, allowing three runs (two earned) on two walks and one hit over 1 2/3 innings. Bundy was hurt by a two-run homer from Devers in the fourth after a walk to Hernández with two outs. Luis Rengifo also did him no favors with a throwing error to start the fifth.
The five runs for the Red Sox were too much for the Angels to overcome, especially with Hernández robbing Rengifo of a two-run homer in the second and two costly miscues on the basepaths.
In the fifth, Shohei Ohtani -- playing on his 27th birthday -- singled to left, but Jose Rojas was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Danny Santana. Rojas was originally called safe but that ruling was overturned via replay review -- Maddon believed the play was too close to be changed to an out.
In the sixth, another potential rally was stymied when Max Stassi tried to stretch a single into a double, but was thrown out by Hernández. It was costly given Phil Gosselin led off the inning with a single and ended up being stranded at third.
But the Angels nearly completed a rally in the ninth, as Rojas singled home a run with two outs -- cutting the Red Sox lead to 5-4 -- and David Fletcher followed with a single to bring up Ohtani. The two-way star ripped a hard-hit liner -- exit velocity of 101.3 mph and an expected batting average of .910, per Statcast -- off reliever Adam Ottavino to Arroyo at second base, who was able to field it on a hop and throw out Ohtani at first to end the game.
"It had a lot of spin on it," Maddon said. "It was a nice play by Arroyo. He's a former third baseman and he played it like that."
Red Sox manager Alex Cora admitted he was concerned when Ohtani came to the plate in the ninth.
“It seems like every pitch, when he’s at the plate, you can hear the oohs and aahs and I think it’s great for baseball,” Cora said. “Adam did an amazing job against him. I think we did a great job tonight, but he’s a threat, pretty similar to when Barry [Bonds] was doing his thing. It felt that way. Everybody was into every pitch, every swing. It’s great for baseball.”