Error-laden outing spells defeat vs. Rays

May 5th, 2021

If the Angels look in the mirror, they shall find their own worst enemy.

The Angels practically handed the Rays an 8-3 win Tuesday at Angel Stadium, committing four errors in the team's worst defensive showing of the season.

With those miscues, Los Angeles has now committed a Major League-worst 29 errors. The inability to cleanly field cost the Angels against the Rays, and it’s a slippery slope. Unchecked, these defensive woes can evolve from snowball to full-on avalanche.

“We haven't been good,” said manager Joe Maddon. “We’re better than that.”

Those errors were especially detrimental to starter Alex Cobb, who allowed two unearned runs and ended up with the loss. Cobb pitched five innings, striking out eight and walking five, but he could’ve pitched an additional inning if not for his defense.

“It’s been odd, some of the hops that we’re getting,” Cobb said. “I don’t know how to attribute it to anything other than some funky hops."

The errors started early. Cobb was on his way to an efficient, 1-2-3 first inning, but shortstop José Iglesias bobbled a routine grounder, allowing Manuel Margot to reach base. The defensive hijinks were just getting started.

In the next at-bat, second baseman David Fletcher inadvertently kicked a grounder off the bat of Brandon Lowe into left field. The ball rolled away from all nearby defenders and Margot scored from first.

In the fifth, Randy Arozarena began the inning with a leadoff single. With Austin Meadows at the plate, Arozarena broke for second base, leading to catcher Max Stassi’s throw being airmailed into center field. Arozarena advanced to third base, then scored on Meadows’ groundout.

Technically speaking, the Angels didn’t have an error in the sixth inning. Yet, they did have two misplays that -- along with poor luck -- led to two runs. 

Third baseman Phil Gosselin, starting for the injured Anthony Rendon, couldn’t properly navigate a foul pop fly near the dugout railing, allowing the ball to drop. Rays third baseman Joey Wendle capitalized on the second chance and singled.

Two batters later, Stassi allowed a passed ball, putting runners on second and third. The Angels brought the infield in, setting up the crescendo of Los Angeles’ defensive shortcomings. 

Kevin Kiermaier hit a grounder that perfectly split a converging Fletcher and Albert Pujols. Two runs scored, with Kiermaier ending up with a double.

The Angels’ final error of the night wasn’t costly, but it proved emblematic of their evening. Gosselin ranged to his right on a Yandy Díaz grounder, then tried to throw to first with his momentum taking him in the opposite direction; the ball sailed well to Pujols’ right and into right field, allowing Díaz to advance to second.

In addition to errors, there were also injuries. In the top of the eighth, Stassi gave chase to a foul pop fly, but he appeared to bang his head on a pole near the Rays’ dugout after he was unable to haul the ball in. Stassi finished the inning, but he was removed from the game and did not catch the ninth.

Stassi wasn’t the only Angel who was banged up, as left fielder Justin Upton was removed from the game in the sixth after fouling a ball off his knee. Upton’s injury comes the night after Rendon fouled a ball off his left kneecap and sustained a contusion.

Parsing the numbers, Los Angeles’ poor defense was not an aberration.

Entering Tuesday, the Angels ranked 26th in ultimate zone rating (-5.1) and 29th in defensive runs saved (-15). The Angels’ sub-.500 start can’t solely be pinned on the defense, but thus far, defense certainly has not helped.

“It’s going to even out on us,” Cobb said.

If the Angels want to truly contend this season, Cobb’s prediction needs to come to fruition.