Sandoval hit hard in Halos' tough loss to Cleveland

May 25th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- had been on quite a roll entering Friday’s start against the Guardians.

After struggling through his first five outings of the season (6.75 ERA and 1.83 WHIP), the Angels lefty quickly turned things around with a 3.03 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in his next five starts. That trend changed in a hurry for Sandoval, who allowed a career-high eight runs in 3 2/3 innings in a 10-4 Angels loss at Angel Stadium.

Sandoval had a 1-2-3 first inning and struck out Josh Naylor to begin the second inning. Then came Sandoval’s worst stretch of the season -- possibly his career. Through the rest of his outing, Sandoval allowed more runs (eight) than batters he retired (seven). The lefty allowed six hits and four walks, gave up a trio of home runs, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.

“[He got] too much of the strike zone. Just couldn’t get the ball where he wanted to get it,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “I thought at some point, he would straighten it out, but it just didn’t happen.”

Commanding the baseball -- in terms of throwing strikes and not throwing hittable pitches -- has always been Sandoval’s X-factor. When he has it, Sandoval can miss bats and give the Angels a chance. When his command is off, you see outings like Friday’s, in which Sandoval’s entire outing unravels.

As an example, Sandoval allowed 14 walks in his five tough outings to begin the season. In the next five outings, Sandoval walked six hitters. His strikeout rate largely remained the same during each stretch of games, but Sandoval’s walks came back to haunt him.

“I felt really good. It was just inconsistent being in the zone,” Sandoval said. “It felt like any second, I was going to settle in. The stuff felt good at times, then it would just completely be gone.”

With another four-walk game on Friday, he has 11 such outings dating back to last season, the third-most in the Majors behind only Blake Snell (15) and Michael Kopech (15).

Sandoval’s final blow was when the left-hander allowed back-to-back home runs to José Ramírez and Naylor with two outs in the fourth inning. It was Ramírez’s second two-run home run in as many innings against Sandoval.

When José Suarez replaced Sandoval, he promptly allowed a home run to David Fry. It marked the first time a team went back-to-back-to-back this season. The last team to pull off home runs in three straight plate appearances? The Rangers, who did so against the Angels in Anaheim on Sept. 25 of last season, when reliever Jimmy Herget allowed three straight homers to Adolis García, Mitch Garver and Nathaniel Lowe.

The Angels had been playing very well coming into the series against Cleveland. They took two of three games in both series against the Rangers and Astros and had won five of their last seven games. Unfortunately for the Angels, their fairly strong work in road games (14-14) has not translated at home, where they have an MLB-worst 6-17 record.

While it’s hard to find many positives from a game that was lost by six runs, the Angels did see continued encouraging signs from Luis Rengifo and Jo Adell.

Rengifo homered in his first plate appearance to put the Angels up 1-0, singled in his next one and was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in his third plate appearance. He ultimately finished a triple shy of the cycle, but Rengifo has continued producing like one of the best Angels hitters.

Of the nine Angels hitters with at least 100 plate appearances, Rengifo ranks first in average (.322), on-base percentage (.374), wRC+ (149) and FanGraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (1.2).

Adell has also been a bright spot in an otherwise down season for the Angels. The former top prospect continued his much-anticipated breakout season with his 10th home run. That tied him with Mike Trout and Taylor Ward for the team lead and is the third-most by a player 25-or-younger this season. The two players ahead of him? Gunnar Henderson (17) and Juan Soto (14).

“Jo’s getting a chance to play. You always heard that if he got 500 at-bats, he could do some damage,” Washington said. “This year, he’s going to get 500 at-bats so we’ll see what kind of damage he can do.”