Griffin Canning struggles as Angels fall to Mariners

Griffin Canning struggles as Angels fall to Mariners

The Angels enjoyed a run of improved starting pitching during a recent surge that carried them into the opener of their latest homestand.

Griffin Canning was unable to contribute to that run Thursday in the first of four games against Seattle.

The right-hander couldn’t make it through the fourth inning on a night when the Angels blew an early two-run lead and lost 6-2.

Canning was lifted after allowing a three-run homer to Jake Fraley, giving the Mariners a 4-2 edge.

In nine of their previous 13 games, Angels starters had gone at least five innings and surrendered no more than three earned runs. The team entered Thursday having won six of nine.

Canning gave up six hits total and walked two. Of his 80 pitches, 50 were strikes. He was replaced by Jose Suarez.

Although he lasted only 3 1/3 innings, Canning has had two shorter starts this season – 2 1/3 innings in April against Houston and two innings last month against Minnesota.

The Angels scored the game’s first two runs on solo homers by Justin Upton and Jared Walsh off Justus Sheffield in the second.

Manager Joe Maddon decided to move Upton from the top of the batting order – where he had hit in each of his previous eight games – to the cleanup spot.

The adjustment took one pitch to produce positive results.

Leading off the second, Upton hit the opening offering from Sheffield 405 feet to right-center for his 11th home run.

Maddon said the move with Upton was made specifically because of match-ups in this game and added that he likes Upton at the top of the lineup.

“I’m not running away from it,” Maddon said. “It’s just based on our personnel right now…I was not just thinking about the beginning of the game but also thinking about the latter part of (Thursday’s) game.”

Upton, who entered Thursday sixth among active players with 317 career home runs, batted .290 with an .859 OPS and scored six runs as the Angels’ leadoff hitter. They were 5-3 in those games.

“He’s been wonderful,” Maddon said. “He’s been very vocal in meetings, setting a great example for everybody else. He’ll do whatever. He really well. That’s not hyperbole. He’ll do whatever.”

After Juan Lagares struck out, Walsh followed with his homer, No. 13 on the year, to give the Angels a 2-0 lead that didn’t last long.

Shohei Ohtani returned the Angels’ lineup after being limited to one pinch-hitting appearance during a two-game series in San Francisco, where the designated hitter was not in use.

His return started out rocky. Ohtani struck out in each of his first three at-bats, stranding three runners in scoring position. The strikeouts came on only 12 Sheffield pitches.

Ohtani is scheduled to start on the mound Friday. Maddon said he hadn’t decided yet if Ohtani also will bat in the game.

“You can see the difference in the lineup if he (hits) or not,” Maddon said. “That has not been determined yet, honestly. I just have to talk to him and look at everything and try and figure out our best step.”

Ohtani’s most recent pitching start came last Friday in Oakland. He did not hit in that game.

Entering Thursday, Ohtani was tied for fourth in the majors in extra-base hits (29), while he ranked fifth in home runs (15), sixth in slugging percentage (.597) and seventh in RBI (40).

Also Thursday, the Angels reinstated reliever Chris Rodriguez (shoulder) from the injured list and optioned catcher Anthony Bemboom to Triple-A Salt Lake.

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