Failed bunt looms large in loss to Cardinals

May 15th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- The Angels can’t seem to catch a break this season, and even when they try to make something happen, it seems to go wrong.

It was certainly the case again in a miscue-laden 7-6 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday that saw the Angels make a plethora of mistakes, including failing to execute a critical suicide squeeze play in the eighth inning at Angel Stadium.

It had manager Ron Washington fuming after the game, as couldn’t get down the bunt attempt on a 1-1 slider outside the zone. It caused Zach Neto to be tagged out easily at home plate on what went down as a caught stealing for the second out. Washington was asked why he made the decision to go with the squeeze and shifted the blame on Guillorme.

“Lefty on lefty, and with a sinkerballer on a left-hander, I didn’t want him to hit into a double play,” Washington said. “He can handle the bat. He didn’t do the job. It wasn’t anything I did wrong. He didn’t do the job.”

Washington was pressed further on the decision, as lefty reliever JoJo Romero had trouble with his control in the inning. Only 13 of Romero’s 28 pitches in the inning prior to the bunt attempt were strikes and he had walked the previous two batters to load the bases.

“Wild? He was throwing it in the strike zone,” Washington said. “Why are you making excuses? He was throwing the ball in the strike zone. [Guillorme] did not get the bunt down. Period.”

Just four pitches later, Guillorme struck out on a slider to end the inning and spoil their prime scoring opportunity. It was the second time the Angels failed to execute on a squeeze play this week, as Mickey Moniak also popped up an attempt for a double play in Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Royals.

Guillorme, who joined the team via a trade with the Braves on Thursday, was told of his manager’s comments but said he hadn’t heard them and it was a tough pitch to connect on.

“He made a good pitch,” Guillorme said. “What else can you say? I tried to get the bat on it. But he made a good pitch.”

It was an ugly play in a game full of them for the Angels. Washington has constantly stressed the club is still learning how to win and they need to learn from their mistakes.

It started early in the second inning, when lefty Reid Detmers uncorked a wild pitch to bring home the game’s first run. He then induced a grounder to third baseman Cole Tucker, who fired home to try to get the runner but it sailed wide for a run-scoring error.

It was more of the same in the third, when Detmers allowed a double steal with Paul Goldschmidt and Alec Burleson swiping the bags despite both having below-average sprint speed and having one combined stolen base on the year coming into the game. After a walk to load the bases, Detmers gave up a three-run double to Pedro Pagés for his first career hit.

“I felt good but obviously the results weren’t what I wanted,” Detmers said. “I thought I pitched well but really made one mistake. I don’t think it was a bad pitch selection, just a bad location on the curveball.”

The Angels, though, chipped away, keyed by a three-run homer from Logan O’Hoppe off veteran right-hander Sonny Gray in the fourth. They tied it in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Taylor Ward but only after Guillorme was thrown out easily at second trying to stretch a routine single into a double.

“Just trying to be aggressive,” Guillorme said. “The ball wasn’t as far as I thought it was and they made a good play.”

The Angels had another chance in the ninth when Kevin Pillar singled with two outs but O’Hoppe struck out to end it. O’Hoppe said it’s been a frustrating season for the Angels, but they have to keep grinding every day.

“It sucks to go through,” O’Hoppe said. “It’s not fun. But you gotta go through it. There's light on the other side of it. But there’s no hiding, this is not fun. This is tough. But you stay in it and it’s not because of a lack of effort. It’s hard mentally to go through this as a group but we have to stick with it and keep learning.”