The Angels went from bad to worse to … the debacle that was the bottom of the first inning Saturday night, a five-run, four-hit, four-walk, one-error fiasco that plumbed the depths of their recent despair.
Michael Lorenzen, one of the team’s most reliable starters, dug a hole with a 37-pitch, 16-strike, 11-batter opening act that the Angels were unable to climb out of in a 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies before 36,313 in Citizens Bank Park.
The Angels have lost 10 straight games, their longest streak since they lost 11 straight Aug. 4-15, 2016, and 14 of their last 17 games.
They were 24-13 and tied for first place with Houston in the American League West on May 15, fueling hope among fans that they could end their seven-year playoff drought. They are now 27-27 and 7½ games behind Houston.
“Of course, you’re concerned,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It was going so well, and it’s almost like we turned the spigot off. It’s hard to explain. About 10 days ago, we’re on top of the world. Now, we’re paddling upstream. It’s obvious why. We haven’t pitched as well. We’re not hitting it all.”
No one is scuffling more than their best hitter. Mike Trout went hitless with three strikeouts in four at-bats Saturday and is 0 for 23 in his last six games, the longest drought of his career, surpassing his 0-for-21 skid from May 11-18, 2018.
Trout hasn’t looked anything like a three-time AL most valuable player for almost two weeks — he’s batting .103 (four for 39) with a .372 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, one homer, two RBIs, 16 strikeouts and one walk in his last 10 games, his average falling from .328 on May 24 to .278.
“I’m in it right now,” Trout said. “I have to figure out a way to get out of it. I’m searching too much. I’m feeling rushed up there. I’ve got to see the ball better. But I’ll be fine. I’ve got to stay positive.”
Lorenzen’s night ended on a higher note. The right-hander cleaned up his own mess, following the nightmarish first with 4 2/3 scoreless innings in which he gave up one hit, struck out seven and walked one. His final line: 5 2/3 innings, five hits, five earned runs, five walks, a career-high nine strikeouts.
“I didn’t really give us much of an opportunity to win tonight,” Lorenzen said. “But I thought, just let me go out there and try to save the pen and be as efficient as I can and, you know, the adjustments worked out.”
Lorenzen said the pressure he felt to end the losing streak caused him to work too fast in the first. His front shoulder was flying open. He was overthrowing, and his fastball straightened out, making it easier to hit. He wasn’t finishing his pitches.
“Just slow down,” he said of his adjustments. “I think I was just excited. I wanted to go out there and compete. I wanted to do literally the opposite of what I did.”
Lorenzen’s first pitch of the game was slammed off the right-center-field wall for a double by Kyle Schwarber. Rhys Hoskins flied out to center, but Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos walked to load the bases.
J.T. Realmuto shot a two-run double to left. Alec Bohm struck out. Bryson Stott walked to load the bases, and Johan Camargo rifled a two-run single to right for a 4-0 lead.
Mickey Moniak’s grounder nicked Lorenzen’s glove and trickled behind the mound for an RBI single and a 5-0 lead. Lorenzen retrieved the ball but his off-balance throw wide of first base for an error allowed Camargo to take third.
Schwarber walked to load the bases again before Hoskins struck out, bringing the inning to a merciful end for the Angels.
A television camera caught Lorenzen and Trout exchanging words in the dugout after the inning and Maddon intervening. But all three laughed at speculation that Maddon was breaking up an argument.
“You guys saw how terrible that first inning was,” Lorenzen said. “Trout’s pretty good at picking up if I’m tipping pitches, and I wasn’t missing any barrels. I was flying open, and they were seeing the ball way sooner, so I had a feeling I wasn’t [tipping], but I was like, ‘Mike, do you think I’m tipping?’ And that was that.”
The Angels scored twice off Phillies ace Zack Wheeler on Jared Walsh’s RBI single in the third and RBI double in the fifth, the first time in five games on the trip they scored more than one run in a game. But that was all the offense they could muster.
Maddon, mild-mannered by nature, said before the game that he is not the type to turn over a postgame spread table in anger, like many old-school managers did. Nor did he feel a need to admonish players during a team meeting, preferring instead to have one-on-one conversations with players.
His approach did not change after the losing streak reached 10.
“OK, I’ll ask you a question, who should I be angry at?” Maddon said afterward. “They’re busting their butts. We’re playing hard. The prep work is great. It’s not a lack of effort or work. We’re just not hitting. Everybody wants [Vince] Lombardi to show up, but for me, it’s reading the situation and working with your guys until we come out the other side.”