'Outstanding' Sandoval let down by defense

July 11th, 2021

SEATTLE -- It was another solid start for lefty , who finished his first half on a high note, but it was the little things that added up for the Angels in a 2-0 loss to the Mariners on Saturday at T-Mobile Park.

Sandoval went a career-high seven innings, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts for a tough-luck loss. With the showing, Sandoval has now posted a 3.33 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings over nine starts since joining the rotation on May 17. And it could’ve been an even better outing if he had more help from his defense, as manager Joe Maddon lamented two double plays the Angels couldn't turn that ultimately led to both Mariners runs.

"I thought Sandoval was outstanding,” Maddon said, “but those are the kind of plays we have to get done, particularly in a game like this and the situation that we're in. To win these kinds of games, you have to make those plays. We didn't complete those plays and that was the difference in the game."

Sandoval ran into trouble in the fourth, putting runners at the corners with one out. He induced a potential double-play grounder from Jake Fraley only for shortstop José Iglesias to have trouble getting the ball to first, which allowed Fraley to reach first and the run to score.

"The ball was hit hard enough," Maddon said. "Fraley runs well, but Fletch gave him a perfect feed. Iggy just didn't get across the bag and the positioning probably inhibited him a little bit. But we failed [to make] a play like that last night and I've often talked about that laser-thin line between winning and losing."

It was more of the same in the sixth when David Fletcher, who extended his hit streak to 23 games with a leadoff single in the fourth, collided hard with Iglesias on a critical play. With one out, Sandoval got Ty France to hit into a potential double play, but as Fletcher tried to start it unassisted, he ran into Iglesias at second and was shaken up.

The runner was out at second and Fletcher remained in the game. France, however, was safe at first and the Mariners capitalized as Luis Torrens followed with an RBI triple to right field. After walking Fraley, Sandoval stranded Torrens by getting Tom Murphy to hit a slow roller in front of catcher Max Stassi.

"Fletch had it all the way," Maddon said. "It's one of those communicative things where they have to read each other. From my view, Fletch had a clear path to the bag and an opportunity for a much harder throw than Iglesias coming off the bag. That's what I saw, but, fortunately, Fletch is fine."

Sandoval came back out for the seventh despite being at 95 pitches and finished his night with a career-high 114 pitches -- 13 more than his previous high. He allowed a two-out single to Jake Bauers, who reached second on a wild pitch, but he got J.P. Crawford to fly out to center to escape the jam.

"I thought it was really important to stretch him mentally, even more so than physically in that situation. It was a 2-0 game and the lineup was good for him. That's something where it's a real growth moment for him. I believe we're going to benefit from that game today with him long term."

Sandoval was pleased that Maddon left him out for the seventh inning and also believes it’ll help him pitch deeper going forward.

"It was nice to finally go out there and not have the first two guys reach, and actually settle in and get some quick outs that inning," Sandoval said of the seventh. "And then I battled with that last batter. It's definitely some big growth."

Sandoval, though, didn’t get much support from the offense either as the Angels were held in check by right-hander Chris Flexen, who scattered three hits over seven scoreless frames. Their frustration was evident when two-way star Shohei Ohtani struck out looking on a changeup off the plate in the sixth and waved back in displeasure to home-plate umpire Kerwin Danley.

“Flexen was really good,” Maddon said. “But that wasn’t [a strike]. And neither were the pitches before that. And I've known the guy behind the plate for a long time. I actually even scouted KD [as a player] at San Diego State. But I bet if he watched it, he'd be the first to admit, it wasn't a strike."