Miscues the difference as Angels fall to Tigers
Santiago contributes solid outing, but errors costly in rubber match
DETROIT -- Hank Conger was certain the pitch was a strike, so he threw to second on an attempted steal. Conger's throw sailed into center field, so Ian Kinsler went to third. Mike Trout's lob back into the infield floated over the head of Howie Kendrick, so Kinsler darted home. Hector Santiago's throw to the plate ended up in the backstop, so the Tigers scored a first-inning run.
"That was pretty crazy," Conger said. "I looked up, and next thing I know there were three errors on the board."
There would be a fourth error five innings later, when Conger's pickoff throw to first ended up in right field, moved Austin Jackson to second and allowed the speedy center fielder to score on the two-out single Nick Castellanos hit off Kevin Jepsen. And because their shorthanded lineup struggled to get anything going for a second straight day, that was all it took for the Angels to lose, 2-1, on Easter Sunday, while en route to dropping two of three at Comerica Park.
It marked the Angels' first loss while allowing zero earned runs since Sept. 19, 2011, in Toronto.
"It's tough, man," Conger said. "Especially when Santiago throws a good game like that and we're not scoring runs, it's kind of tough when you know that two of those runs you kind of contributed to."
Despite walking a career-high-tying five batters and requiring 119 pitches to record 17 outs, Santiago gave up only two hits and managed to go 5 2/3 innings with only those two unearned runs, lowering his ERA to 3.68 in the process.
But Rick Porcello -- the same guy who allowed nine first-inning runs at Angel Stadium exactly one year ago, and has an 8.34 ERA in nine career starts against the Angels -- pitched seven innings of one-run ball. And after Kendrick notched a two-out single in the ninth, putting the tying run on with his third hit of the game, Raul Ibanez struck out on a 3-2 curveball from Tigers closer Joe Nathan and the Angels fell two games below .500.
An Angels offense that's without corner outfielders Josh Hamilton (left thumb surgery) and Kole Calhoun (sprained right ankle) notched 11 runs and 10 extra-base hits in Friday's win, but combined for three runs on 11 hits in back-to-back losses on Saturday and Sunday.
Given the early struggles of Ibanez (.148/.212/.311 slash line) and David Freese (.143/.197/.196), inconsistency like that is to be expected.
"There's some guys that just aren't on track right now," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Hopefully we'll start to see some signs moving forward now."
It took the perfect storm of events for the Angels to commit three errors on one play, which originated with Kinsler on first and one out in the bottom of the first.
First, there was the 3-2 changeup to Miguel Cabrera that appeared to be a strike and instead led to a walk that made a throw to second useless.
"No doubt in my mind," said Santiago, who was told "good pitch" by Cabrera when the inning ended.
In a situation like that, Scioscia explained, Conger can't wait for an audible call from home-plate umpire Brian Knight. Conger assumed it was a called third strike, then heard differently just as the ball was releasing from his hand, which might have caused an errant throw.
"I was very confident it was a strike, then as soon as I went to throw it, I heard ball four and it caused a slight hesitation," Conger said. "It was bad timing, but it was a poor throw."
The Angels still had a chance to throw out Kinsler at the plate when Trout's throw trickled into Santiago's glove near the pitcher's mound. But the 26-year-old left-hander rushed the throw.
"That was different," Santiago said. "I was trying to cover behind third and I saw the overthrow and tried to sneak up. I saw Kinsler a little down the line and I saw him take off. I don't know where he's at behind me. I tried to make a quick throw and I just pulled it. Another two inches and it's an out."
Kinsler, whose Tigers moved to 9-6, admitted he "got kind of lucky there at the end."
"I've never been a part of something like that, so it was definitely an unusual play," he added.
"That's a play you don't do too much," Santiago said. "We don't practice that one."