Anderson's stingy streak ends as offense squanders opportunities

June 9th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- When the Angels swept the Padres earlier this week, it represented their first home series win of the season and their first sweep at Angel Stadium since July 17-19 against the Yankees last season.

That home-field success against the Padres has not carried over for the Angels against the Astros, who won 6-1 and took their second straight game to secure a series win. Friday’s game remained in a 1-1 tie through six innings before the Astros blew it open in a 7-1 win. On Saturday, the Angels fell behind early and couldn’t capitalize on opportunities with runners on base.

Houston took a 2-0 lead in the third inning thanks to a pair of RBI singles from Jose Altuve and Jake Meyers and tacked on two innings later on a two-run home run from Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez, who has proven to be a nightmare for Angels pitchers this series.

Alvarez dealt the decisive blow Friday with his game-winning three-run double in the seventh inning. On Saturday, he roped a ground-rule double with a 110.7 mph exit velocity in his first plate appearance, was hit by a pitch his second time up and homered in his third plate appearance against Tyler Anderson.

In Alvarez’s fourth plate appearance, he doubled against a 103.9 mph fastball from the Angels’ flamethrowing Ben Joyce. That was the fastest pitch by an Angels pitcher since tracking began (2008) and the fourth-fastest pitch overall to be recorded for a hit in that span.

“He’s obviously one of the best hitters in baseball,” Joyce said about Alvarez’s double against him. “They can catch up to that stuff, so it was just about being better with my offspeed [pitches] and setting that up a little better, and I think the result could have been different.”

In total, Alvarez homered (385 feet), doubled twice (exit velocities of 110.7 mph and 106.3 mph) and reached base on a hit-by-pitch. The 26-year-old has established himself as one of baseball’s premier hitters and Alvarez’s prowess was on full display on Saturday night.

“I wanted to walk him, but I can’t walk him when first base and second base are occupied,” Angels manager Ron Washington said when asked if he’d consider changing his approach against Alvarez on Sunday. “Every time he had the opportunity, we had to pay for it.”

Anderson allowed four runs in six innings, snapping a career-best four-game streak of five-plus innings and one run allowed. While it certainly wasn’t a disastrous outing, Anderson’s four runs tied a season high (May 6 at Pittsburgh). From the onset, it was clear that Anderson was battling himself more than usual and struggling to locate his pitches.

“They put some balls in play, found some holes. He tried to get a ball inside on Alvarez and it creeped back over the plate,” Washington said. “[But] he got us to the sixth inning.”

Even if Anderson’s outing was more akin to his typical outing, the Angels offense did not provide much support behind him. The Angels didn’t put their first run on the board until the seventh inning, when Nolan Schanuel hit his seventh home run of the season with two outs to make it a 4-1 game.

Three straight walks from Astros relievers followed Schanuel’s home run to load the bases, putting the go-ahead run at the plate in the form of Zach Neto. The Angels infielder grounded out to end the inning, and the Astros tacked on two more runs the following inning to put a wrap on the game.

Fourteen Angels batters reached base via six hits, seven walks and one hit-by-pitch, but the offense went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“All night, we put ourselves into position to put some runs on the board and we just couldn’t come up with a hit,” Washington said. “If we could have done something in one of those situations, it would have made a difference in the ballgame tonight.”

Angels hitters had little luck against Astros starter Hunter Brown, who tossed six scoreless innings, struck out seven and allowed just two hits. If anything, Brown battled himself more (four walks and one hit-by-pitch).

To avoid a sweep, the Angels will turn to left-hander Patrick Sandoval on Sunday in a matchup against 41-year-old Justin Verlander.