Double-play ball strikes Angels again

Halos lead Majors in dubious stat, but Scioscia downplays offense's role in loss

May 4th, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- Even after their starter, Nick Tropeano, gave up 1,272 feet worth of home runs at Miller Park on Tuesday night, the Angels found themselves with a premium opportunity to take control of their game against the last-place Brewers, with the bases loaded, none out and their deficit at only one run in the top of the seventh inning.

Their arch nemesis, the double-play groundout, struck again, sending the Angels to a 5-4 defeat that gave them back-to-back losses to begin this three-game series.

Andrelton Simmons worked a walk, Carlos Perez singled and C.J. Cron took first base on four consecutive balls against Brewers reliever Michael Blazek. But Cliff Pennington managed only a harmless flair, which settled into the glove of second baseman Yadiel Rivera. Leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar followed by seeing a 1-1 fastball down the middle and chopping it into the ground, producing a three-hopper that went for a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play.

It was the second double play the Angels hit into on Tuesday -- the first came with Albert Pujols swinging at a 3-0 pitch -- and the 31st time it happened this season, more than any other team in the Majors. The Angels have also struck out far fewer than any team in the game, and a high degree of contact tends to produce an inordinate amount of double plays.

"They'll be part of it," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "But there's a way that you can mitigate some of that by putting some guys in motion. And sometimes you're not going to be able to. We put the ball in play. That's much more of an asset than a detriment to what we need to do. We're going to be fine offensively."

Scioscia expressed more concern with his starting rotation, which seems to grow thinner by the day.

The Angels' starting pitching depth sat at eight when Spring Training began, and is now down to four, with C.J. Wilson and Andrew Heaney on the disabled list, Tyler Skaggs shut down and Matt Shoemaker in Triple-A. Their current rotation, the one that excelled for a good portion of April, has gone six consecutive days without completing six innings.

The last man to fall victim to that, Tropeano, gave up five runs and issued five walks in five innings.

But it was three home runs that haunted him.

The first came off the bat of Chris Carter, who jumped on a first-pitch, 91-mph fastball in the third and sent it a projected 439 feet to straightaway center field, according to Statcast™, for a two-run shot.

Tropeano said he was "just trying to get ahead."

The second was produced by the Brewers' catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, who turned on a 1-2 changeup out over the plate in the fifth and hit it a projected 402 feet toward left-center for his first home run in 83 at-bats this season.

"I should've buried it," Tropeano said of his changeup. "I kind of left it up. You're going to get hurt if you're going to leave it up."

Carter came next, got a 1-0 slider down the middle and sent a towering shot 431 feet from home plate and up to 152 feet in the air to plate the winning run. It was Carter's 18th home run in 61 career games against the Angels.

"I tried to throw it for a strike," Tropeano said. "I probably should've been more aggressive with it."

Scioscia dismissed the seventh-inning double-play ball as the biggest factor in his team's 15th loss this season. He said the Angels "didn't lose the game in the batter's box" and expressed continued confidence in his lineup, which has provided better production in the last week or so.

"Offensively," Scioscia said, "we're going to continue to grow as a team and we're going to be fine. We just need to get a little bit more continuity out of our starters."