ANAHEIM — The Angels are limping to the finish line.
Although they had perhaps overachieved for much of the second half by flirting with .500 despite a skeleton roster, the Angels’ 10-5 loss to the Houston Astros on Tuesday night was their fifth in a row.
The Angels scored all of their runs on three home runs, including the 45th homer of the season for Shohei Ohtani, who had not hit one since Sept. 10. Ohtani’s eighth-inning blast pulled him within one of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Salvador Perez, who are tied for the major league lead with 46.
Ohtani’s homer traveled 445 feet, landing well up into the seats beyond the right field fence.
“Chop that up a little bit he might get two or three out of that,” Manager Joe Maddon said. “That was crushed. He’s fine. He’s in position to finish very strong at the plate and on the mound. That ball was properly struck.”
Although Ohtani has slumped lately and there has been discussion that Guerrero might challenge him for the MVP, Maddon reiterated his opinion that the race is over.
“I think everyone is in second, third, fourth and fifth,” Maddon said.
The MVP discussion is about all that’s left for the Angels (72-79), who are now seven games under .500 for the first time since May 28, which was so long ago that Mike Trout had not even yet missed two weeks.
After three consecutive tight losses to the Oakland A’s over the weekend, the Angels have been outscored 20-5 in the first two games of this four-game series against the AL West-leading Astros.
Their latest defeat induced poor performances by the first three pitchers who took the mound, each of whom had shown some encouraging signs in previous games.
Starter Packy Naughton carried a 4.32 ERA into the game, and he’d had thrown five scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres earlier this month.
The Astros tagged him for three runs in the second on back-to-back homers by Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz. He tacked on a couple more scoreless innings before getting pulled after a leadoff walk in the fifth.
“I made two bad pitches,” Naughton said. “I think I came back and battled well, but in the end I hope I can come out and execute better on those pitches.”
Oliver Ortega, who had allowed two runs in his first six innings, then gave up a two-run homer to José Altuve. Ortega allowed three of the next four hitters to reach and he was charged with three runs.
Finally, Kyle Tyler gave up three runs in the sixth, including a homer to Martin Maldonado.
Tyler bounced back with a scoreless seventh, looking more like the pitcher who had allowed just one run in his first 9-2/3 big league innings.
While those pitchers had pitched better previously, it’s worth noting that all three began the season at Double-A, and none of them had been in the majors before August. None of them are considered among the Angels’ top pitching prospects.
Austin Warren, who began the year in Triple-A, pitched a scoreless eighth in his first outing after missing a month following a positive COVID test.
“Beautiful,” Maddon said of Warren’s performance. “First pitch slider for a strike. I thought the ball is coming out hot again. This is a guy you know what to expect. That’s what you want from your relief pitchers.”
The Angels trailed 10-1 in the sixth before Phil Gosselin blasted a three-run homer, his second hit of the night. It was the seventh homer of the season for Gosselin.
Earlier Jack Mayfield had hit his 10th homer, this one against the team that brought him to the big leagues. Mayfield reached double-digits in homers after hitting just two in his 112 plate appearances with the Astros in 2019-20.