ANAHEIM — The Angels’ surprising defensive issues were on display in all their ugliness on Tuesday night.
Four more Angels errors – increasing their major league-leading total to 29 in 28 games – led to three unearned runs on their way to an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Angels also lost a player for the second straight night because of a foul ball off his knee.
Justin Upton suffered a right knee contusion in the same way that Anthony Rendon did on Monday, although Upton’s didn’t look nearly as bad. Upton actually remained in the game, drew a walk and played an inning in left field before coming out. Upton did not need to undergo X-rays because it was a soft tissue contusion, but there was no immediate word on how many days he might be out.
Catcher Max Stassi also left the game in the ninth inning after he went awkwardly into the railing along the dugout chasing a foul pop. Stassi was being evaluated on Tuesday night, with an update expected on Wednesday.
It was all part of a tough night for the Angels, who also gave up four runs on two home runs by Austin Meadows against Ben Rowen in the seventh and eighth innings.
Rowen was pitching because the Angels already trailed 4-1, thanks to the sloppy defense.
It has been an unexpected problem throughout the season’s first month. The Angels projected to be a good defensive team, especially on the infield.
“Those are the kind of things we have to tighten up and get better,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “If you’re good at defense, you should be good 97 percent of the time. We have good defenders and we have to stay with them.”
On Tuesday night the troubles started in the first inning.
With two outs, Manny Margot hit a hard ground ball directly at shortstop José Iglesias, who bobbled it and was unable to pick it up in time to even make a throw.
On the next pitch, Brandon Lowe hit a grounder to the right side. With the Angels shifted, second baseman David Fletcher was playing in shallow right and had no chance to get an out, but once he got to the ball he kicked it into center field, far enough away that Margot scored.
“I have a huge amount of faith in this defense,” said Alex Cobb, the pitcher who was on the mound during that first inning. “I have watched them for over a month and I have seen what they’re capable of. It’s been odd, some of the hops that we’re getting. I don’t know how to attribute it to anything but some funky hops. Fletch and Iggy have gotten their fair share of weird spinners and balls hopping up on them. It’s going to even out on us. Those guys are too good. We’ve been getting some fluky plays hit to us.”
Cobb’s biggest issue over the next three innings was self-inflicted, with five walks. But he did not give up any more runs until the fifth, when the defense burned him again.
Randy Arozarena led off with a clean single. He stole second, and Stassi’s throw went into center field, allowing him to take third. He scored on a ground ball.
Those two unearned runs were all that Cobb allowed, but the Rays scored two more in the sixth with more help from the Angels. With runners at first and second and one out, Stassi let an Alex Claudio pitch get by him for a passed ball.
Because both runners moved up, the Angels had to bring the infield in, and that allowed Kevin Kiermaier’s bouncer to get between first baseman Albert Pujols and Fletcher, knocking in two runs.
Even that play, which was not scored an error, didn’t look quite right, as Fletcher and Pujols each seemed to pull up and allow the ball to scoot between them.
“It’s not even about the errors,” Maddon said. “It’s the balls we need to catch and make plays on that we’re not.”
Look up “unearned run” in the dictionary and there is a picture of this. https://t.co/4gI49fYjQT
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) May 5, 2021