February 3, 2023

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For Angels, late innings 'just not working'

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After Trout's go-ahead HR in 7th, Halos can't preserve lead in loss to Blue Jays
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ANAHEIM — After superstar Mike Trout hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning to give the Angels a one-run lead, everything was set up for the Halos to snap their recent funk and get a much-needed win against the Blue Jays.

But the bullpen imploded for the second straight game — and in familiar fashion, as left-hander Aaron Loup continued his recent struggles and right fielder Juan Lagares made another costly error in the Angels’ 6-5 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday night at Angel Stadium. It was the Halos’ fourth straight loss and their eighth over their past 11 games.

“We’ve played this [kind of] game too often,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We have to get by that and really settle the back end of the bullpen down. I have a lot of faith in these guys, but it’s just not working right now. We’ve had several games over the last week or 10 days that we should have put away, and we have not. I don’t have a really good reason for you right now.”

Trout, who went 3-for-4, did his best to try to absolve the bullpen after Toronto scored two runs in the seventh to take a 3-2 lead. Right-hander Michael Lorenzen was one out away from getting out of a jam and getting through seven innings. But he gave up a game-tying RBI double to Cavan Biggio and was removed for reliever Archie Bradley, who came in and gave up a go-ahead RBI single to Alejandro Kirk.

Trout came to the rescue with his team-leading 13th homer of the year in the seventh, and it looked like the Angels were headed toward a victory. Maddon opted to bring in Kyle Barraclough to try to protect the lead, and the right-hander promptly walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches before getting an out on Danny Jansen’s deep drive to the warning track in left field.

Maddon went to Loup, who had allowed a combined six runs over his previous three outings, even though right-handed batters Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Matt Chapman were due up with one out. Maddon later explained that right-handed relievers Ryan Tepera, Oliver Ortega, Jimmy Herget and Jaime Barría were unavailable to pitch. Tepera said he needed the day off after pitching on Friday, while the Angels are trying to avoid pitching Ortega on back-to-back days as an organizational decision, per Maddon.

“Barraclough was struggling, and we had a limited bullpen tonight,” Maddon said. “Loup almost got through it, but could not. He was one pitch away from getting that done. I want to believe it’s just a bad run with the pitching right now, because these guys are good.”

Loup struck out Gurriel, but he then gave up a sinking line drive to right field by Chapman. Lagares, who booted a play for an error in the ninth inning of Friday’s 4-3 loss, had another tough showing. He couldn’t get to the liner despite a 70 percent catch probability, per Statcast. And to make matters worse, he made an errant cutoff throw to second baseman Luis Rengifo, who couldn’t handle it as the go-ahead run scored.

Lagares is regarded as an above-average defender, but he didn’t sign a Minor League deal with the Angels until May 8 and played in only seven games with Triple-A Salt Lake before getting called up because of Taylor Ward’s neck injury. Ward’s ailment has not only kept his potent bat out of the lineup, but he’s also a strong defender, while Lagares looks like he was impacted by not having a Spring Training.

“He’s just not been out there often enough,” Maddon said. “No Spring Training and limited time in the Minor Leagues. He did not have good jumps on the ball. The way he fumbled that one, it was an issue because it led to a run that possibly wouldn’t be on the board.”

Loup then gave up an RBI double to Raimel Tapia that also proved to be pivotal, as the Angels scored a run in the ninth against Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano and had the bases loaded with two outs, only for Andrew Velazquez to ground out to end the game.

Lorenzen, who gave up three runs over 6 2/3 innings, said he understands how tough being in the bullpen can be, as he was a reliever for most of his seven-year tenure with the Reds. But he believes the Angels will settle down and be just fine.

“It’s a long season,” Lorenzen said. “We have the talent in here. We have the right guys in here. There’s no doubt about it. We’re fine.”

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