ANAHEIM, Calif. – The towering home run shot that David Ortiz delivered Friday night at Angel Stadium was something to behold. The errors the Angels made were not.
Fielding has been their Achilles heel this season. They’re a team of solid defenders, but so far this season the Angels have frequently resembled a bunch of kids on a sandlot.
How else to explain the two errors they made in a 6-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox – two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs through seven innings? Take those away and the Angels are ahead 2-1 instead of behind 3-2.
Maybe things turn out differently. Maybe Ortiz doesn’t come to bat as a pinch-hitter and turn the game with a two-run shot for a 5-2 lead. It’s hard to know.
But left fielder J.B. Shuck had trouble with a sinking line drive off the bat of Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the second inning, the ball diving in front of him and then skipping over his head and allowing a run to score.
And then right fielder Josh Hamilton, whose homer the night before ignited a come-from-behind win over the St. Louis Cardinals, simply overran a fly ball near the foul line by Jonny Gomes with two outs in the seventh, allowing a run to score from first base.
Angels fans let out a collective groan. It was understandable.
In the major leagues, only the Houston Astros, with 67 errors in 87 games, have more miscues than the Angels’ total of 64. When they commit an error, the Angels’ record is 17-26.
“It’s frustrating,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “If you look at the games where we’ve supported our pitching on the defensive end, these guys have pitched deep into games and had good pitch counts. It adds up when you’re not making plays, not only giving up runs but you’re making your pitchers throw more pitches.”
As it was, starter C.J. Wilson pitched into the seventh and allowed just one earned run, but he threw 121 pitches. Reliever Dane De La Rosa worked the eighth but surrendered a leadoff double to Daniel Nava before the left-handed-hitting Ortiz drove an 0-and-1 pitch several rows deep in the right-field bleachers.
Scioscia opted not to use lefty Scott Downs to face Ortiz, partly because the Angels were behind and partly because Downs had pitched one inning the previous night.
“We had a base open, and hopefully we were looking for Dane to get some pitches in good spots and get a chance to get David out,” Scioscia said. “Unfortunately he left an offspeed pitch up and he hit it.”
Ortiz does that. But the night was really about fielding.
Wilson wasn’t pointing fingers afterward. He said Hamilton came up to him later in the dugout, but he simply told his teammate – and former Texas Rangers teammate – to go out and win the game.
“Josh and I go way back,” Wilson said. “I don’t hold grudges against fielders that make errors. It happens. I throw balls down the middle sometimes and they get over the fence. It’s frustrating because the effort is there most of the time. The bounces just didn’t go our way.”