Angels drop wild finale due to bullpen woes: 'That one hurts'

July 17th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- For all the momentum the Angels thought they had created with their incredible comeback win over the Astros on Saturday, it was erased in a hurry on Sunday with a disastrous showing by the bullpen in yet another disheartening loss in the series finale.
The Angels led by two runs in the seventh, four in the eighth and had the Astros down to their last out in the ninth but couldn’t hold those leads en route to a frustrating 9-8 loss in front of a stunned crowd at Angel Stadium. It marked the Angels’ 11th defeat over their last 13 games and dropped them to 46-48 with the all-important Trade Deadline looming on Aug. 1.
“That hurts. It stings,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “You want to build off yesterday. I talked about the fight and everything. So yeah, that one hurts.”

With lefty Tyler Anderson lasting just three innings, Nevin had to get creative with his bullpen, especially with Chris Devenski, Matt Moore and Tucker Davidson unavailable. He brought in José Soriano to face the heart of the order in the fourth before leaning on Jacob Webb to do the same in the sixth and seventh. Soriano got through it unscathed, but Webb gave up a pair of solo homers to Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers to tie the game in the seventh.

The Angels, though, rallied for four runs in the bottom of the frame, and Nevin went with closer for a rare appearance in the eighth inning. The manager explained his decision was matchup-based, as Estévez was brought in to face Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker and José Abreu.

Estévez, though, gave up a leadoff single to Bregman and a two-run homer to McCormick to make it a two-run game. And after he pitched on Saturday, he wasn’t going to go back out for the ninth, so the plan was to go to Jaime Barria, who entered without a career save.

“It’s rare I do that because [Estévez] is our closer, but it was because of the right-on-right matchups,” Nevin said. “I wanted to go with my best there against the heart of their order and then hand it to Barria in the ninth. But it just didn’t work out.”

As Nevin noted, it backfired, as Barria, who was tentatively scheduled to start against the Yankees on Wednesday, struggled from the jump, allowing back-to-back singles to open the inning. But he had a chance to pull it out, as Bregman came to the plate with two outs and a runner on second. Barria, however, served up a go-ahead two-run homer to Bregman on a first-pitch slider over the heart of the plate.

Despite lefty Aaron Loup warming up, Barria remained in the game and gave up a solo blast to Kyle Tucker, which proved to loom large. hit his MLB-leading 34th homer in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough. Nevin said he didn’t go to Loup because he was the club’s last reliever and would’ve been needed if the game went to extra innings.

“He was the last guy we had left, and now we had a deficit,” Nevin said. “I get that. And it turns out to be the one run. But he’s the last one we have, and if we tie it in the ninth, it’s something I’ll be probably thinking about.”

The Angels made it interesting after Ohtani’s homer, as Matt Thaiss had a chance to at least tie the game with a sinking liner to right field with two on and two out. But Tucker made a diving catch in right to end the game, with Thaiss slamming his helmet down in frustration near the first-base bag.

“I knew he hit it good,” Nevin said. “They were back and playing no doubles, so I thought there was a chance. But Tucker made a great play.”

The Angels now will have to regroup with the Yankees coming to town for a three-game series that begins on Monday before they host the Pirates for a three-game set over the weekend. And things don’t get much easier from there, as they head to Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta leading into the Trade Deadline.

“We need to stick together and get through it,” Estévez said. “It’s a tough loss. But we have 60-plus more games. We can’t lose our minds over this. It’s baseball. It’s a game of failure. We just need to bounce back and get more wins.”