Halos still can't solve A's, fall to West foes

Sandoval dances around trouble, but bats can't back him

July 31st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- It's become an all-too-familiar script for the Angels this season and is a reason why they weren't in "buy" mode for Friday's Trade Deadline. It’s also a reason why they’re on the periphery of the AL Wild Card chase, staring up at a handful of clubs in the standings.

The Angels have pitched just fine against the A's -- and saw yet another strong effort from left-hander on Friday -- but they simply can't find a way to score runs against them. It was again the case in a 2-0 loss at Angel Stadium that dropped the Angels to seven games back of Oakland for the second Wild Card spot, as they’ve also dropped seven straight against their divisional rivals.

The Angels were shut out for a second consecutive night and for a third straight game against the A’s going back to their series in Oakland on July 20, marking the first time they’ve been shut out by the A’s in three straight games since 1994. They’ve scored just one run over their last 43 innings against Oakland and are 3-11 against them this year, which has caused a big divide in the standings, even though several of those losses were close games.

"They’ve just beaten us because we don't score any runs against them," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "And they play good defense, which is part of why they pitch so well. We've been staying with them toe-to-toe, but we just have to break through offensively. We had another really good pitching performance with Sandy outstanding again and the bullpen was very good. But we've got to figure it out offensively."

It was hard to blame Sandoval, as he didn’t have his best stuff and walked six but was able to get through 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball on a career-high 115 pitches. Sandoval twice loaded the bases, the one run he allowed coming on a bases-loaded walk surrendered to Mark Canha with two outs in the fourth.

"He had good stuff, but they're very patient and will make you throw the ball over the plate,” Maddon said. “He got a lot of 3-2 counts and I think three or four times he gave up a walk on a pitch that wasn't close enough to the plate to induce a swing. But I mean, this guy is growing by leaps and bounds. His last four starts he's been really strong at the end, so this was another growth moment for him."

Sandoval, who took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his last start against the Twins on Saturday, has been a revelation for the Angels since joining the rotation in mid-May. He has a 3.09 ERA in 12 starts with 79 strikeouts in 70 innings.

“I saw a lot of that [no-hit] bid and he’s really deceptive,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of Sandoval's makeup on the mound. “He uses his fastball just enough to get you a little bit off his changeup and slider that he can throw in any count. He's really good with his breaking stuff. He's pitching with a lot of confidence right now and took it into this game. The key was us getting his pitch count up.”

Sandoval has also been going deeper and deeper into games recently, throwing at least 100 pitches in each of his last five starts after reaching that mark just once through his first 21 career starts.

"It's awesome just to know they have trust in me," Sandoval said. "It's nice to go out there and have that many pitches in my back pocket and not worry about that. That's huge for my confidence, just knowing that they trust me to go out there and compete and give us a chance to win."

But the Angels offense was again stymied by A's right-hander Chris Bassitt, who threw seven scoreless frames and improved to 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA in three starts against them this season. Their best scoring chance came in the sixth, when they singled three times but couldn’t score a run, as Shohei Ohtani was caught stealing after a leadoff single.

Justin Upton also doubled to lead off the ninth against closer Lou Trivino, but was stranded there. After dropping the first two of this four-game series, the Angels have two more chances this weekend to turn things around, but they’ll need to start creating some offense.

"I'd love the split now,” Maddon said. “Absolutely. We'll come back ready to play tomorrow. But we've got to score runs against Oakland. It's as simple as that."