Sandoval's one mistake spoils strong effort

August 9th, 2020

Rookie lefty turned in the best outing of his young career against the Rangers on Saturday but it wasn’t enough in a 2-0 loss at Globe Life Field. The defeat dropped the Angels to 5-10 on the season, which is now 25 percent completed.

Sandoval, recalled from the club’s alternate training site in Long Beach before the game, went a career-best six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and a walk to pair with four strikeouts. His previous high in innings was five, set twice last year.

“This is what I thought we would see with him,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I think he has this kind of potential. I don't think that's an outlier. I think that's the kind of performance he's capable of on a more consistent basis. Better fastball command, really good slider and changeup when he needed it.”

And through five, Sandoval was strong, pitching scoreless baseball on 88 pitches, and he came back out for the sixth to face the top of the Rangers’ lineup. Sandoval got two quick outs but then allowed a two-out single to Todd Frazier. The Angels stuck with Sandoval to face lefty slugger Joey Gallo, and Sandoval gave up a two-run homer on an 0-1 fastball that caught too much of the plate. It was Gallo’s fourth homer of the year, all of which have come against lefties.

"I felt good,” Sandoval said. “I felt I had command of most of my pitches. I made one mistake, and Gallo made me pay for it. But a lot of positives to take away from today."

It spoiled an otherwise strong outing from the 23-year-old, who was making his 12th career appearance and 11th start while searching for his first career win. Sandoval is ranked as the club’s No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline, and Maddon has raved about his potential.

Gallo was also impressed by Sandoval, but he said seeing the lefty for a third time helped the slugger see him better.

“He was pitching a really good game,” Gallo said. “He was locating his pitches really well, keeping us off-balance, not giving up a lot of hard contact. See a guy over and over, you start making adjustments here and there. That gave us an advantage, but he was outstanding tonight. That was a really good performance by him.”

Maddon liked the matchup against Gallo and said Sandoval wasn’t showing any signs of fatigue, leading him to keep Sandoval in the game.

"The numbers were good,” Maddon said. “My plan there was if two out of the first three guys got on base, he was out. But he got the first two guys out, and they were ground balls, which was kind of nice. He made a bad pitch to Frazier and a bad pitch to Gallo. It was left on left. He just made a low, middle pitch to Gallo that he didn't miss, but it was primarily based on handedness, and I thought he still had really good stuff."

After the two-run homer, Sandoval recovered to strike out Rougned Odor to end the sixth after throwing 94 pitches. Of those offerings, only 41 were fastballs, as he mixed in 25 sliders, 16 changeups and 12 curveballs. His slider usage through two starts this season is much higher than last season; it’s a pitch he has worked on to complement his plus-changeup. He registered five swings and misses on the slider, three on his changeup and one on the fastball. Sandoval said that the improved slider has been key for him so far with a 2.70 ERA through two outings.

“It's huge,” Sandoval. “Last year, I didn't fare too well against lefties. And coming up in the Minors, I was always told I had to throw my slider to fare well against lefties. So I've just been working on it as hard as I can."

However, Sandoval didn’t get any run support, as the Angels were stifled by San Clemente native Kolby Allard, who threw five scoreless innings with six strikeouts, including two against Mike Trout. Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani also continued their slumps, combining to go 0-for-7 while leaving a combined six runners on base.

“Offensively, you look at the numbers and you know they're going to get better,” Maddon said. “The guys are better than that. We're better than that. So in the meantime you’ve just got to be patient and support them and keep throwing them back out there. That's how I approach moments like this.”