ANAHEIM -- Coming off his unforgettable performance that saw him finish off a combined no-hitter with seven no-hit innings against the Mariners on Friday, Felix Peña couldn’t replicate that showing in a rough outing against the Astros on Wednesday.
Pena, making a start without an opener for the first time since April 19, scuffled through 4 2/3 innings, giving up eight runs on nine hits in an 11-2 loss at Angel Stadium. It snapped the Angels’ five-game win streak and caused Pena's ERA to increase from 4.32 to 4.92 on the year.
"I didn't feel like I could throw or I could command my three pitches for strikes,” Pena said through an interpreter. “When you can't do that, that's what happens, always. When you can't command your pitches, they hit you."
With the bullpen overworked and Friday’s opener Taylor Cole unavailable after throwing 47 pitches on Monday, the Angels allowed Pena to make just his fifth start of the year, as he had pitched after an opener in his previous 13 outings. It didn’t work out, as Pena gave up three runs in the first inning, including an RBI double to Alex Bregman and a two-run homer to Michael Brantley.
"They jumped him early, and just carried the momentum throughout the game," said acting manager Josh Paul, who filled in for the suspended Brad Ausmus. "They were patient and they got the pitches that they needed to hit hard and they hit them hard."
The Astros kept piling it on from there, scoring twice in the second, once more in the third and five times in the fifth. Pena surrendered a two-run double to Jose Altuve in the second and threw a wild pitch that brought home a run in the third before it all fully unraveled in an ugly fifth inning with reliever Luke Bard getting hit hard.
Pena started the fifth by hitting Brantley on a pitch that first hit the dirt, and recorded two quick outs before giving up a single to Robinson Chirinos. Bard, freshly called up from Triple-A Salt Lake, came into the game, but promptly allowed an RBI single to Tyler White, an RBI double to Jake Marisnick and a three-run shot to George Springer. Two of those runs were charged to Pena.
“I was hanging some pitches,” Pena said. “And I had to pay for it."
Pena registered seven swings and misses among his 91 pitches, which was tied for his second-lowest total of the season, not counting his one-inning relief stint on May 26. He induced a season high 15 whiffs while throwing his seven no-hit frames last week.
Pena, though, blamed his command for his lack of success and said it had nothing to do with making a start instead of coming in after an opener that faces the top of the lineup.
“I felt the same,” Pena said. “It's the same thing. You just have to keep your same routines, so for me it was the same. It's a baseball game. Things happen."
It put the Angels in an 11-0 hole, as they didn’t score until the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer from Dustin Garneau off right-hander Gerrit Cole. It was the only run allowed by Cole, who threw seven strong innings with 11 strikeouts.
Cole induced 24 swings and misses, which was the most against the Angels this season. He's had two outings of at least 15 whiffs against the Angels this year, and no other pitcher has done it once according to Statcast.
“He's one of the tougher pitchers we face,” Paul said. “We face him a lot being in our division. Ideally, you’d like to keep it close as long as you can with him to give yourself a shot. Tonight didn’t work out.”