ANAHEIM ― Maybe Joe Maddon jinxed it.
The Angels’ manager mentioned Tuesday in his pregame session with reporters that he was looking for a low-leverage situation in which to use Mike Mayers, his struggling right-handed reliever.
Maddon had just one problem: The Angels had been playing too many close games recently. His starting pitchers had been averaging six innings a game for the month of July, leaving his relief pitchers little room to work.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful problem to have,” Maddon said. “I’m not looking for negative blowouts.”
The solution found Maddon. The Angels lost, 12-3, to the Colorado Rockies before an announced crowd of 16,115 at Angel Stadium.
Mayers got his work in. He allowed only a soft single in a scoreless eighth inning. At that point, ironically, Maddon was out of pitchers.
Veteran outfielder Adam Eaton pitched the ninth – and he delivered a scoreless inning too, his fastball touching 90 mph. It was the first time Eaton had ever pitched in 10 major league seasons. Judging by how the rest of the game went for the Angels’ pitching staff, it might not be the last time Eaton takes the mound.
Colorado took a 10-0 lead behind left-hander Austin Gomber (8-5). By the time Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani provided his daily heroics – a two-run home run in the fifth inning that traveled 463 feet – the game was well out of reach.
The home run was Ohtani’s 36th of the season, which leads the major leagues. Ohtani also struck out twice on a night when the Angels left 11 runners on base.
The top of the first inning foreshadowed what was to come.
The Rockies’ leadoff hitter, Raimel Tapia, lined a single to the outfield on Jose Suarez’s second pitch of the game. Suarez (4-4) threw to first base to keep Tapia close but was charged with a balk.
With Tapia on second base, Suarez got the next two hitters to hit routine ground balls to third base. Jack Mayfield couldn’t field either ball cleanly, and suddenly the bases were loaded.
Mayfield had never made an error in 167 major league innings at third base before making two in the first inning.
Suarez got Charlie Blackmon and C.J. Cron to hit a couple of tailor-made double play balls. The Angels got only a single out on each play, and two runs scored.
“It’s a perfect example of why the first pitch matters,” Maddon said. “Games can be won or lost in the first inning.”
Brendan Rogers led off the third inning with a solo home run, crushing a 92 mph fastball that missed its target over a row of ficus hedges in center field. The Rockies tacked on two more runs in the inning, helped in part by a throwing error by shortstop Jose Iglesias following another routine ground ball.
The Angels committed three errors as a team; the Rockies’ four unearned runs were the most by any Angels opponent this season.
By the time Suarez was removed in the fourth inning, the Angels trailed 6-0. Andrew Wantz offered little relief, serving up a three-run home run to the second batter he faced, Sam Hilliard.
Eight runs were charged to Suarez in 3⅓ innings.
“I did find it a little difficult” to recover from the first inning, Suarez said. “I was trying to get out of the inning with as few pitches as possible, but that’s out of your control.”
The Angels fell to 50-50. They are four games behind the third-place Seattle Mariners in the American League West and five games behind the Oakland A’s for the final AL wild-card spot.