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Angels hope comeback win energizes club

After blown save in ninth, bats force extras before walk-off in 10th
@RhettBollinger
August 2, 2020

It’s still early in the season, but it was the kind of game the Angels couldn’t afford to lose, given how much each win or loss is magnified in a shortened season. The Angels overcame closer Hansel Robles' struggles in the ninth inning, as Jason Castro tied the game with

It’s still early in the season, but it was the kind of game the Angels couldn’t afford to lose, given how much each win or loss is magnified in a shortened season.

The Angels overcame closer Hansel Robles' struggles in the ninth inning, as Jason Castro tied the game with an RBI double in the bottom half of the frame and Michael Hermosillo provided a walk-off sacrifice fly in the 10th in a 5-4 win over the Astros on Saturday at Angel Stadium. It was a much-needed victory, which snapped their losing streak at three games and saw them improve to 3-6 on the season.

Box score

“We've been through this several times already this season,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We're very close to being in great shape and we're just below mediocre shape. We just got to nail those wins down. To go home tonight losing a game like that, day game tomorrow, you got to really search for the energy, which is just the fact. So hopefully this will energize us a bit going into tomorrow.”

After Robles gave up three runs in the top of the ninth on homers from Josh Reddick and George Springer, Luis Rengifo sparked the comeback in the bottom of the inning with a one-out single off closer Roberto Osuna, who left the game due to injury. Castro capitalized with an RBI double off the wall in center to tie the game.

Relievers Noé Ramirez and Ryan Buchter combined to hold the Astros scoreless in the 10th despite the new extra-innings rule with a runner starting on second base. It set the stage for the walk-off in the 10th, with David Fletcher starting things off with a single to right to put runners at the corners with nobody out. After a strikeout from Brian Goodwin, Anthony Rendon was intentionally walked to bring up Hermosillo, who delivered with a sacrifice fly to right off reliever Nivaldo Rodriguez to score Matt Thaiss.

“It was obviously awesome to be able to contribute,” Hermosillo said. “But I think just any pressure situation, I've just kind of tried to look at it as a great thing. It’s just honing in on that and getting in the zone and continuing to experience those situations so that I can keep getting better and better.”

It came on an afternoon in which right-hander Griffin Canning turned in a solid outing. With the shadows making it difficult for hitters on both sides with a 4 p.m. PT start, Canning took advantage and allowed one run over six-plus innings. Canning scattered six hits and two walks while striking out five. It was another strong showing from the 24-year-old, who received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow in March, but has proved to be healthy.

Canning didn't have good fastball command early and instead relied heavily on his offspeed stuff. Of his 86 pitches, only 33 were fastballs, compared to 29 curveballs, 14 sliders and 10 changeups. It helped him pitch out of a few jams, as Astros hitters went 0-for-7 against him with runners in scoring position.

“I think I commanded the ball inside pretty well with my fastball,” Canning said. “So I think it just kind of kept them honest. I think mainly it was just kind of having a steady mix and just throwing the ball inside.”

But the win also masked more troubles from Robles, who is dealing with declining velocity and hasn’t looked like he did last year, when he established himself as a dependable closer with a 2.48 ERA and 23 saves.

Robles has posted a 22.09 ERA in four outings this year, while seeing a sharp decline in fastball velocity. Robles' fastball averaged 94.5 mph on Saturday after averaging 97.2 mph last year. It usually takes Robles some time to build up his arm strength in a season, but with a shortened schedule this year, the Angels can't afford for Robles to take time to get going.

“He’s another guy I've been talking with a lot,” Maddon said. “He's just off, obviously. You've all noticed that there's been a decline in the velocity. We have to figure that out. On top of that, it's a confidence issue, too. You got to pay attention to all of that. [Pitching coach] Mickey [Callaway] is already on it. He saw some things. He has some ideas, so we'll see if it plays out.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.