Angels' frustrations surface in Padres series

July 6th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- The Angels headed south to San Diego for a three-game series hoping to build some momentum heading into the All-Star break.

Instead, things simply went south for the Angels in several ways in a disheartening three-game sweep at the hands of the Padres capped by a 5-3 loss in the series finale on Wednesday at Petco Park.

The Angels also lost both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon due to injuries on Tuesday and will be without Trout for four to eight weeks. Rendon avoided the IL on Wednesday but could still land there if he’s not ready to play Friday.

“I’m not going to use the injuries [as an excuse], we just [have to] play better,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I thought we played a better game today. Sometimes, you just lose them. But I thought we played well.”

Those frustrations were voiced by Nevin, who was ejected from the loss in the seventh inning after arguing with home-plate umpire Jerry Layne about the strike zone.

Nevin was irked by a 3-2 pitch from reliever Jacob Webb to Manny Machado that appeared to be a strike but was instead ruled a ball to load the bases. It led to San Diego scoring what proved to be the winning run on a groundout to Webb that would’ve ended the inning if Machado struck out.

“It was a strike,” Nevin said. “There was a pitch earlier in the at-bat that was a strike. Just blatant misses. I don’t get that part of it [especially] in a big spot in the game. That’s strike three and we get a ground ball and the inning should be over. I never said he cost us the game but we could still be playing.”

The Angels have now lost seven of eight and 11 of 15 to drop to 45-44 on the season. They trail the first-place Rangers by seven games in the AL West and the Yankees by four games for the third and final Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays also are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Angels. The Halos are also in a virtual tie with the Red Sox.

They have an off-day to regroup on Thursday before finishing the first half with games against the rival Dodgers on Friday and Saturday. They’re in danger of heading into the All-Star break with a losing record if they can’t beat the Dodgers and they’ve lost eight straight to their rivals dating back to 2021.

“I think those games are very important,” said outfielder Mickey Moniak. “We’re definitely looking to head into the All-Star break above .500. It’s 162 games but they all mean something. So we’ll take it one day at a time and try to win Friday.”

The Angels remain in contention, but even that has started to slip away recently with the Trade Deadline looming on Aug. 1. And it doesn’t get much easier after the All-Star break schedule-wise, as they host the Astros, Yankees and Pirates to open the second half before heading on a three-city road trip against the Tigers, Blue Jays and Braves.

It puts the Angels in a tough spot, as they’ve already been buyers, recently trading for infielders Eduardo Escobar and Mike Moustakas to improve their infield depth. And they’re trying to get to the postseason for the first time since 2014 with two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani in the last year of his contract.

The Angels could still be buyers at the Trade Deadline, given general manager Perry Minasian’s aggressive nature and desire to make the postseason, but they’re in a much tougher spot now and need to play well heading into the Deadline.

“We’re just grinding through,” said left-hander Patrick Sandoval, who gave up two runs (one earned) over five innings in a no-decision. “It’s a tough time. There’s been a bunch of injuries. It’s tough but it’s next man up. So we’re just grinding right now.”

Nevin, though, said there’s no added pressure because he believes his players already play with a sense of urgency.

“Every day we come to the park, there's always a sense of urgency,” Nevin said. “It's an injustice to our fans and your teammates if you don't show urgency and take this seriously with urgency every day. I’ve said that since Spring Training. 

"We’ve had some injuries but we need to right the ship with what we have right now. We're gonna get some bodies back soon but we have plenty of capable players to win baseball games.”