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Cahill rebounds, but bullpen ineffective late

@RhettBollinger
May 22, 2019

ANAHEIM -- After posting a 9.35 ERA over his previous six starts, which included six runs allowed over 4 1/3 innings against the Twins last time out, Angels right-hander Trevor Cahill had a lot to prove in his second straight outing against Minnesota on Tuesday night. With left-hander Andrew Heaney

ANAHEIM -- After posting a 9.35 ERA over his previous six starts, which included six runs allowed over 4 1/3 innings against the Twins last time out, Angels right-hander Trevor Cahill had a lot to prove in his second straight outing against Minnesota on Tuesday night.

With left-hander Andrew Heaney set to rejoin the rotation as early as Sunday, Cahill had to show signs of turning it around, and he did just that with a strong showing, allowing one run on just two hits over five-plus innings. But after Cahill departed with a runner on first in the sixth, it was the bullpen that struggled and couldn’t keep the lead in an 8-3 loss at Angel Stadium.

“It felt pretty good,” Cahill said. “They've got a really good team. Two times in a row, it's tough. I'm trying to get through that sixth inning, set up 7-8-9 with a lead for the bullpen instead of them coming in in the middle of an inning with guys on. They've done a great job all season. Just a bad taste in your mouth if you can't get through that last inning."

Box score

Cahill, though, looked much more like the pitcher the Angels believed they were getting when they signed him to a one-year, $9 million deal this offseason, as he kept the Twins off-balance and registered 11 swings and misses (eight with his changeup) with five strikeouts.

“He was really good,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “He had a lot of soft contact, his changeup was working really well. Actually, I think his changeup and curveball were both working really well. His sinker had a lot of movement. I think that’s more the Trevor we envisioned. Probably his best outing of the year."

Cahill didn’t give up his first hit until the fifth inning and he came back out for the sixth having thrown 87 pitches with the Angels up 3-0. But he gave up a leadoff double to Max Kepler and was pulled for reliever Justin Anderson, who entered Tuesday with a 2.93 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings this season.

Anderson, however, was hit hard in a hurry, giving up a first-pitch double to Jorge Polanco to score Kepler, before serving up a game-tying, two-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez on the very next pitch. The momentum shifted just like that, and Cahill’s solid start was for naught.

“He was at 90 pitches when he came back to the dugout,” Ausmus said. “The top of the lineup, it was four lefties in a row coming up starting with Kepler. It was their third look at him and I was just kind of going hitter to hitter hoping to squeeze another inning out of him, but if anyone got on I was going to go to the bullpen.”

It was just as ugly in the seventh, as reliever Luke Bard hit Jason Castro with a fastball on a 1-2 count, though he was able to get Byron Buxton to pop up for the second out. Bard then suffered some tough luck, giving up a check-swing single to Kepler, and then a go-ahead RBI single to Polanco. Gonzalez struck again with an RBI double for an insurance run Minnesota ultimately wouldn’t need.

“The check-swing single seemed to turn the tide for the Twins,” Ausmus said. “It was an accidental base hit and that’s when the floodgates opened."

With the Angels putting an extreme shift on Eddie Rosario that saw nobody covering third, Polanco extended his lead down the line to 43.8 feet, per Statcast, and Bard tried to chase him back to the base. He then got Rosario to ground into what appeared to be a routine grounder to second to end the inning, only to see it get between shortstop David Fletcher and second baseman Luis Rengifo for a key two-run single that essentially put the game away.

“That's just baseball," Bard said. "Obviously, not happy with myself hitting the batter there after an 0-2 count. Check swings and balls dropping in, that's part of the game. That's why we play. Keep battling. Unfortunately, tonight it just didn't go my way."

Reliever Noe Ramirez then came in for the eighth and gave up a homer to Luis Arraez, who was playing in his fourth big league game and had only six career homers in 354 games in the Minors. A night after Ty Buttrey gave up a go-ahead two-run homer in a 3-1 loss, Angels relievers were charged with seven runs over four innings, causing the bullpen’s collective ERA to rise from 3.82 to 4.04 on the year.

“The bullpen has been an extreme strength of ours, so I’m not gonna, after two games, claim it’s a weakness,” Ausmus said. “It’s just two games. It’s a pretty good offensive club we’re playing against in the Twins. In my mind that’s still a strength.”

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