Wantz rebounds, shows mettle in extras

September 23rd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- It's difficult to navigate a scoreless inning in extras with a runner automatically starting at second base.

But rookie reliever Andrew Wantz bucked the odds, as he held the Astros scoreless in both the 10th and 11th innings before lefty Sam Selman gave up four runs in the 12th in a 9-5 loss to the Astros on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. It was the Halos' sixth loss in a row and their eighth consecutive loss at home. It's their longest such streak at home since dropping nine straight at The Big A from July 21-Aug. 4, 1994.

"We did so many things well tonight," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "We absolutely had opportunities to end it, but didn't. And then they just eventually wore us down."

Wantz, who is essentially auditioning for a role with the club next season, was coming off his roughest outing of the season on Monday, allowing four runs in an inning against Houston. It caused his ERA to rise from 4.79 to 6.23 in 21 2/3 innings this year. He fared much better on Wednesday, keeping the Astros in check in two critical spots.

“Wantz rebounded well after a couple of tough outings,” Maddon said. “He’s more crisp, more aggressive and more assertive. I thought he looked really good.”

Thrown into an undesirable spot, Wantz faced the top of Houston’s order in the 10th. He got Jose Altuve to pop up to shortstop Luis Rengifo before getting Alex Bregman to line out to shallow center. The Astros then brought in Aledmys Díaz as a pinch-hitter, but Wantz struck him out on three pitches to end the inning.

After the Angels were held scoreless in the bottom of the inning, Wantz remained for the 11th. It wasn’t quite as smooth, but he was able to get out of the frame unscathed. Yuli Gurriel opened with a deep drive to center that allowed Díaz to reach third with one out. After intentionally walking Kyle Tucker, he struck out Carlos Correa and got Jason Castro to ground out to second with the shift on to escape the jam.

While Wantz did his job, the Angels couldn’t come through in the 10th or the 11th to get the walk-off win.

Their best chance came with the bases loaded and no outs in the 10th. Jared Walsh grounded out to Correa, who made a nice play to throw home for the first out. David Fletcher was brought in as a pinch-hitter and lined out to shallow right, but Shohei Ohtani was thrown out at the plate by Chas McCormick to end the inning. Maddon, though, liked the decision to test McCormick, who also made two diving catches in the game.

“It was a great decision to go,” Maddon said. “I mean, it's two outs. That's something that we do emphasize. That's just another great play. He was on the run, going to the fence there. It wasn’t that deep, but we’ve challenged from that spot in the past. I agree with the chance, but they made another good play.”

Selman couldn’t hold the Astros down in the 12th, as he was hurt by an RBI single from Jake Meyers and a two-run double from Altuve, who then went to third on the throw home and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Bregman.

"I'm going to defend Selman,” Maddon said. “It was not a good group of hitters for him to pitch to. It was between him and [Jose] Marte, but I wanted to go with a veteran right there. Somebody who has a better chance to throw strikes. Under normal circumstances, you're not going to set them up with that kind of alignment. They just wore down our bullpen, so give them credit."