Sandoval 'outstanding' after late swap

May 28th, 2021

Lefty turned in a strong spot start on short notice against the A's on Thursday, filling in for two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who saw his scheduled outing pushed back a day due to transportation issues in the Bay Area.

Sandoval, who didn’t find out he was starting until a few hours before first pitch, scattered five hits and two walks over five scoreless innings with four strikeouts in a series-opening 5-0 loss to the A’s at the Coliseum. It was the third straight solid start for Sandoval, who has a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings over that stretch.

"I thought he was outstanding," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "Short notice, went out there and he settled into that first inning and it helped him get on a roll. He was able to escape some situations. I thought he threw all his pitches really well tonight. It wasn't all fastball-changeup, he threw some really good curves and sliders. That's a great outing to build off and it's a couple in a row now."

Sandoval was pitching on normal rest, as he last started on Saturday against Oakland, allowing two runs over five frames. But he wasn’t scheduled to make any starts in the near future and was on the roster as a long reliever or emergency starter. He said he was told by pitching coach Matt Wise a few hours before the game that he could get the spot start and was able to get through his normal routine without any issues, as he had arrived earlier to the ballpark than Ohtani.

"I was in the middle of my throwing program before BP and Matt told me I might be starting today because Shohei was held up," Sandoval said. "He told me to stay ready but couldn't say how likely it was. And then, I don't even know how long before the game, but they told me I was in there."

But with Ohtani unavailable to pitch because he didn’t have time to get ready for his start after arriving an hour later than anticipated, Sandoval answered the call and navigated his way out of several jams, working around a leadoff walk in the first and settling down with a perfect second inning that featured two strikeouts.

His best escape act came in the third, when he loaded the bases with one out after surrendering a pair of singles and a walk. But he got Ramón Laureano to ground into a double play on a 2-2 slider to get out of the inning unscathed.

He was helped by another double play in the fifth -- coming on a 1-0 changeup to Elvis Andrus -- giving him his second straight game with two double plays induced.

"It's huge to have the defense behind you making the big plays and at big times like that," Sandoval said. "There's nothing better, obviously, than bases loaded and one out and you get out of it with a great double play. It's awesome."

He again put two runners on in the fifth but got out of trouble by getting Chad Pinder to ground out on his 84th pitch of the night. Maddon opted to go to the bullpen in the sixth, but the club’s relievers struggled yet again. Aaron Slegers and Alex Claudio combined to allow five runs, with four being charged to Slegers, who now has a 6.30 ERA in 23 appearances. 

"I thought he had done his job,” Maddon said of Sandoval. “We like Slegers a lot right there. And if you play back the tape, he gave up a ball down the left-field line and a walk and a couple ground balls that could have been outs. And then a popup. I mean, he threw the ball pretty well. So it's kind of unfortunate."

But the offense was also to blame, as the Angels managed just two hits off right-hander Chris Bassitt, one coming on an infield single from Juan Lagares in the second and a one-out double from Justin Upton in the ninth. The Angels, who came into the night having scored a combined 26 runs over their previous three games, saw their modest win streak snapped.

"It was all their pitcher,” Maddon said. “That kid there, I'm a big fan. He's kind of like a Scherzer type, and he's got that little funk in his delivery, long arm. This guy's really good. That's not a fluke, by any means. He's going to be someone to reckon with. He's the kind of guy that we have to learn how to beat in our division. He's that good."