Washington in Estévez's corner after walk-off loss

May 22nd, 2024

HOUSTON -- The Angels again showed some signs that they are starting to play better baseball, but they ultimately couldn’t preserve three leads against the Astros on Tuesday night.

The Angels weren’t able to hold a two-run lead in the first inning, a two-run lead in the sixth nor a one-run lead in the seventh before closer gave up a walk-off single to Jeremy Peña with two outs in the 10th inning of a frustrating 6-5 loss at Minute Maid Park.

It was another tough outing for Estévez, who didn’t get charged with an earned run because of the automatic runner but fell to 0-3 with a 5.06 ERA in 16 appearances. Manager Ron Washington said he plans to stick with Estévez as his closer over an option such as Hunter Strickland, who has posted a 0.60 ERA over his past 15 appearances.

Strickland gave up a leadoff double in the ninth inning Tuesday but got through a scoreless frame to send it to extras.

“We haven't given up on him,” Washington said of Estévez. “When the game is on the line and we’ve got a chance to win the game, we're going to give the ball to Estévez. We’ve just got to ride it out and see where it goes. But as far as us making changes, we’re not making changes.”

Despite the disheartening ending, the Angels have been hanging in there during their Texas road trip. They took two out of three against the Rangers, losing in extra innings on Saturday, and took the opener in Houston on Monday before losing again in extras on Tuesday.

Luis Rengifo has provided a spark since coming off the injured list on Thursday and gave the Angels an early lead on a two-run home run off Cristian Javier two batters into the game. It helped the Angels carry over some momentum from their four-homer performance on Monday.

But right-hander Griffin Canning allowed the Astros to come right back and tie it up on the strength of back-to-back homers from Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez. Canning, though, settled down after that and allowed just those two runs over five innings. The homers also weren’t exactly no-doubters, as Tucker’s was projected as a homer only in Houston, while Alvarez’s would’ve left the park in nine stadiums.

Canning has been on an encouraging run. He has posted a 1.99 ERA in four May starts after he had a 7.45 ERA through his first six outings.

“Obviously, the two homers I gave up in the first inning hurt,” Canning said. “But they weren’t really terrible pitches, and I don’t know how many stadiums those get out in. They’re a good lineup and don’t give up any at-bats. They make it tough.”

Zach Neto helped start a two-run rally in the fourth with a double off the left-field wall before Rengifo added his third RBI with a two-out single. Rengifo has hit .261 with a homer, a double, a triple and four RBIs in five games since missing time with a viral infection that caused painful foot blisters.

But the Angels couldn’t hold on, as right-hander Carson Fulmer gave up a game-tying, two-run homer to Jon Singleton in the sixth. The Angels counted on Fulmer in a high-leverage spot because several of their key relievers have been overworked.

The Angels, though, took the lead in the seventh on a solo homer from the red-hot Kevin Pillar, who has four homers and 17 RBIs in 14 games with the Angels.

Again, however, it wasn’t enough, as right-hander Luis García served up a game-tying solo shot by Tucker in the bottom of the inning. It was the second homer of the game for Tucker, who leads the Majors with 17.

“We had the people in there that we wanted toward the end of the game,” Washington said. “It just didn’t work out.”

The Angels couldn’t come through after that and again had woes with runners in scoring position, going 1-for-8 in those opportunities. They failed to score in two innings against lefty Josh Hader, including striking out three times in the 10th.

“We put ourselves in position to win, but they got it,” Washington said. “They beat us tonight. It wasn't like we kicked the ball all over the place and made mistakes and stuff like that. It was a solid ballgame. Somebody had to win, and in the end they got us.”