Angels, Smith look to work through rough stretch
Right-hander allows grand slam in eighth against Indians
CLEVELAND -- Joe Smith hadn't given up a home run to a right-handed hitter all season, until Indians catcher Yan Gomes sent one into Progressive Field's bushes Saturday night. In a career that dates back to 2007, Smith had never allowed five runs in one outing, until Saturday's eighth inning, when the Angels' setup man turned a tied game into an 8-3 deficit and yet another crushing loss.
"Tough night for Joe," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's been there for us all year, and he'll be a big part of what we hope to accomplish the rest of the way. We'll turn the page on this."
Facing his former team, and coming in after Garrett Richards retired 13 of his final 14 batters, Smith was hit around like never before. Francisco Lindor began with a line-drive single to cap an eight-pitch at-bat, and then the Indians exploded for five runs on eight pitches, four of which were part of an intentional walk.
Michael Brantley singled on a first-pitch sinker, Carlos Santana lined the go-ahead double on an 0-1 sinker, and Gomes, batting after an intentional walk to Lonnie Chisenhall, pummeled a first-pitch fastball to straightaway center field to clear the bases.
It was the first grand slam Smith had given up since his rookie season eight years ago and his first home run against a right-handed hitter since then-Red Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on Aug. 10, 2014.
"Pretty surprised," Smith said.
"I've had some tough at-bats against him," said Gomes, who caught Smith while both were on the Indians in 2013. "I just wanted to get on the first good pitch I saw."
Smith's rough outing came 24 hours after Trevor Gott -- with a 1.65 ERA at the time -- blew a one-run lead by allowing three runs in Friday's seventh inning.
The Angels can't do much right these days.
Mike Trout is finishing up his worst month since his first full season in 2012, the bottom third of the lineup isn't producing -- a byproduct of David Freese and Johnny Giavotella both being on the disabled list -- and the Angels are at the bottom in almost every statistical category in August, including batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and runs per game.
Then there's the starting rotation, which carried the Angels for the first three months but has a collective 5.17 ERA over the last 35 games.
And then there's the back end of the bullpen, solid all year but coming off back-to-back meltdowns.
The Angels, thusly, are slipping. They've lost 23 of their last 35 overall and 15 of their last 18 on the road, falling 6 1/2 games back of the Astros in the American League West and 2 1/2 back of the Rangers for the second Wild Card spot.
"Win," Richards said when asked how his team can get back on track. "That's all it comes down to is just winning. I don't think anyone in here is concerned about their numbers or anything like that. People are going out there trying to put together good at-bats, trying to put up zeroes when they're called upon as far as pitching goes, and we're just trying to put together games right now. We're just trying to come out with wins at the end. I don't think anybody cares about anything else."