Leadoff walks come back to bite Lorenzen

September 22nd, 2022

ARLINGTON -- Even though Michael Lorenzen took the no-decision in the Angels’ 5-3 loss to the Rangers on Thursday afternoon at Globe Life Field, his five-inning outing was enough to leave a sour taste in his mouth.

Heading into the rubber match, one of the things Lorenzen knew about the Rangers’ lineup -- the only AL West team he hadn’t faced all season -- was their ability to hit two-seamers and sinkers. They were slashing .297/.368/.470 against those pitches entering play on Thursday.

Because of that, Lorenzen held off on using his sinker -- a go-to pitch that he’s thrown 26.4 percent of the time this season -- and instead relied on his four-seamer and changeup. 

“I thought he was really good,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought he threw the ball really well. He was strong through his outing, his pitch count got up, and I really thought the changeup was the difference maker for today, you know. It gave them fits for a bit. We just didn’t score enough runs.”

Mixing those pitches in, Lorenzen threw five innings of one-run ball and generated a season-high 14 swings-and-miss strikes, with eight of those whiffs coming on his changeup.

"He did a good job of mixing. He was in and out of the zone, he used his fastball well and he's got a pretty good breaking ball. He threw a lot of good changeups that just kept us off balance,” Rangers manager Tony Beasley said. "He threw balls that looked like strikes for a long time and dipped out of the zone and got a lot of chase. We've probably struck out more than we would like in the last week or two."

What troubled Lorenzen -- and in the end, the team -- were leadoff walks. After working his way through a pair of 1-2-3 innings to start the game, Lorenzen walked Rangers outfielder Josh Smith to start the third inning. Lorenzen struck out the next two batters that followed, but a double off the bat of Marcus Semien allowed Smith to score.

After that, the 30-year-old right-hander -- who is now three starts removed from a stint on the 60-day injured list with a right shoulder strain -- got back into his groove and retired eight straight batters between the third and fifth innings.

Then, again, Lorenzen walked the leadoff batter to start what Nevin described as a “strange” sixth inning. Lorenzen was pulled from the game with the Angels leading 3-1 after allowing the first two batters he faced that inning to reach base. Both runs ended up scoring to tie the game, and he finished with a final line of five innings pitched, three runs, two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.

“There was some good and some bad,” Lorenzen said. “I feel good about it, but, you know, I couldn’t keep the team in it long enough.

“I felt really good about the game plan. [Catcher] Kurt [Suzuki] did a really good job back there. It’s just, the leadoff walks are going to kill you. Both of them came in to score, and I think if I’m just on top of my game a little more for the first hitter, this outing is a lot different.”

The leadoff walks were indeed the difference maker in the game. With the game tied at 3, José Quijada walked Semien to start off the eighth inning, and shortstop Corey Seager followed up with a two-run home run that sealed the game.

“The home run is not really what beats us,” Nevin said. “We walked three leadoff hitters today, and all three of them scored, and we’ve got to get better at that. That’s the difference in the game today.”