Big hit eludes Angels in Houston opener

Halos go 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position as Detmers struggles again

June 2nd, 2023

ANAHEIM -- With a 3-2 count and the bases loaded with one out in the sixth inning on Thursday night at Minute Maid Park, Angels leadoff hitter  watched as Astros reliever Hector Neris threw a sinker that appeared to be below the zone.

But umpire Stu Scheurwater rang up Ward for a called third strike, which frustrated a usually mild-mannered Ward and caused manager Phil Nevin to yell his displeasure from the dugout. Scheurwater promptly tossed a heated Nevin from the game, marking a similar ejection he received for arguing a checked swing call in New York in a tough loss to the Yankees in mid-April.

The called third strike was a pivotal call, as the Angels were down by two runs at that point and a walk would’ve meant that superstars and  would’ve been coming up trailing by just a run. But instead, Trout popped out to short to end the inning, which was a microcosm of their 5-2 loss in the series opener. The Angels went just 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 13. 

“Stu is one of the better umpires in our game,” Nevin said. “You guys saw [the call], but I'll never blame an umpire call on a game. We had a lot of chances today and we didn't come through. We had a lot of baserunners. We just made some mistakes that cost us.”

They had their chances as early as the first inning, when Trout and Ohtani reached with one out, only to see and  strike out. They scored in the second on a two-out RBI single from Ward but then left the bases loaded, as Ohtani struck out to end the inning.

They scored on a solo homer from Drury in the fifth to take a one-run lead but couldn’t capitalize in the sixth, when Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela opened the inning with singles.

Zach Neto singled with one out, but Renfroe was held at third base with the top of the order coming up -- only to see the Angels unable to capitalize on Ward's strikeout and Trout's popup.

“Very frustrating. It’s unfortunate that the situation ended up like that, but it’s part of the game and I just have to do my best and swing at good pitches,” Ward said. “I knew it was a ball and then I looked back at our dugout to confirm it, and that’s the main reason why I said something there.”

It was also another confounding start for lefty , who has yet to pick up a win in 10 outings this season and has a 5.15 ERA. It was a familiar story, as he fared well early before being hurt by a big inning and two-strike hits.

Opposing batters have hit .455 (10-for-22) against him on 0-2 pitches this season, picking up two more 0-2 hits in the fifth inning. With two strikes, batters are hitting .259 against him (30-for-116). The MLB league average on 0-2 counts entering the day was .151, while batters are collectively hitting .171 with two strikes. 

“It’s frustrating,” Detmers said. “I just have to make better pitches. I don’t know. It’s not like I’m not trying out there. But that’s just how things are going out there, and hopefully things turn around.”

The fifth was his nightmare frame this time, and it started with a double from Corey Julks on a 1-2 slider that stayed in the zone. Detmers gave up the game-tying RBI single to No. 9 hitter Yainer Diaz on an 0-2 fastball on the outer half of the plate. He gave up another hit on an 0-2 slider up in the zone to Jose Altuve before walking Yordan Alvarez with two outs to load the bases.

But unlike the Angels, the Astros came through in a big moment, as Alex Bregman ripped a two-run single to left that proved to be the difference in the game. But even that play was a source of frustration, as Urshela looked like he could’ve made the play at third, only for the hard-hit grounder to sneak past him.

“It was just in-between hop and it just went under his glove,” Nevin said. “I've been around him for five years and I've never seen him show emotion. That was the first time I've seen him upset about a play. Those things happen. It just happened at a rough time.”