Neither dinger made much of a difference, though, as the Angels struggled in the series opener on Tuesday night and fell, 9-3, to the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Los Angeles went just 6-for-32 on the night but drew seven walks. Overall, the Angels went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base in the defeat.
“We fought back. We had guys out there, opportunity-wise, and we just could not cash in,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said.
Here are two takeaways from the Angels’ loss in Chicago:
1) Walsh, Gosselin homers can’t overcome quiet bats
Things started out well enough for the Angels, as Gosselin’s first-inning homer put his team up before starter Packy Naughton had to throw a pitch.
The White Sox lineup went on to open up a 6-1 lead after the third inning, but Walsh’s 27th home run of the season cut the lead to three and looked to be bringing Los Angeles’ bats to life.
Immediately following Walsh’s home run, Luis Rengifo and Jack Mayfield singled and walked, respectively, to put two runners on with only one out. In the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, the Angels combined for five free passes and three hits as they loaded the bases in each frame.
Rather than cut into Chicago’s lead, Los Angeles instead found itself unable to push runs across, as the fifth ended with a swinging strikeout for Rengifo and the sixth and seventh both finished on double plays. Without much of a chance for a comeback after that, the Angels went down in order in the ninth to close out the game.
“We fought it really well, we just couldn't get the hit,” Maddon said. “The double plays really hurt us. The at-bats to get to those points were outstanding, and then hit some hard ground balls right at people.”
2) Rookie arms deliver uneven results
With the Angels out of the playoff picture as the regular season winds down, Maddon has taken to evaluating some of the younger arms on the roster for future spots on the staff. That continued on Tuesday, as the Angels rolled out four rookie pitchers to face the American League West-leading White Sox.
Naughton, making just his fifth appearance and third start in the Majors, lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up six hits, walking one and being charged with four earned runs on the night. According to Statcast, of the 11 balls put in play against him by the White Sox, eight of them were hard hits (95-plus mph), and the average exit velocity against him was 95.7.
“All comes down to execution,” Naughton said. “Wasn't executing. Those fastballs that were in were either a little too in or a little too middle. You kind of got to try to limit that and limit the damage, which I didn't do a good job of tonight.”
The next two arms out of the ‘pen didn’t fare much better.
Andrew Wantz inherited Naughton’s last two baserunners with two outs in the third. Seven pitches later, not only had the inherited runners scored, but Wantz also allowed a three-run shot to White Sox designated hitter Gavin Sheets that broke the game open.
Oliver Ortega was the second reliever out of the bullpen, but he couldn’t get past Sheets, either. After Ortega hit Chicago center fielder Luis Robert to open the fifth and got right fielder Leury García to fly out to center, Sheets came up and hit an RBI double off the wall. He later scored on an RBI single by César Hernandez.
Fortunately, the Angels saw another positive outing for Kyle Tyler, who allowed just three baserunners over three innings of work to close things out for Los Angeles.
The Angels’ rookie arms were charged for a combined nine runs and 13 hits while striking out just four over eight innings, but even a challenging night won’t deter Maddon.
“I like that the White Sox are very good, we're playing them, they're a playoff-caliber team. That's when you want to see your guys,” he said. “You don't want to see them necessarily against teams that are out of the race, as you are. I'd rather we play better teams right now to get a better evaluation of what we got.”