Angels hold team meeting after second ugly loss: ‘We worked too hard for that to happen’

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BALTIMORE — It can be a long and lonely walk out to the mound for a manager, when you’ve already had to go out once before, the same inning. All still before a single out has been recorded.

That’s the position Los Angeles Angels skipper Ron Washington was in during the sixth inning, a horrid frame to punctuate a second very ugly game of the season in Baltimore. The Angels have been outscored 24-7 thus far after losing 13-4 on Saturday.

An 0-2 record isn’t too hard to stomach. But the way they got there certainly was. There are nine other MLB teams currently facing the same predicament. Some with expectations of brighter days. The Angels may well be in that category. But the early returns are a flag as red as their caps.

“It’s not a good one,” catcher Logan O’Hoppe said of his reaction to the loss. “We’ve worked too hard for that to happen. It is two games, and we’ve got 160 left. No one’s hitting the panic button. We’re not happy with it by any means.”

The Angels wanted to address their bullpen this offseason. So far it’s allowed 13 runs in 10 1/3 innings. They wanted the starting pitchers to throw more first-pitch strikes. Griffin Canning threw 11 first-pitch balls to 23 batters, a game after Patrick Sandoval was yanked after 1 2/3 innings.

They wanted to get more out of their lineup. The Angels have struck out 27 times in the 54 outs their offense has recorded. They wanted the infield defense to be sharp, but committed two costly errors that led to unearned runs. They want to steal bases, but have yet to attempt one.

It is necessary to couch the misery in the inherent optimism that comes with the calendar reading March 30. Things will get better for the Angels. But for now, that’s simply because things couldn’t be any worse. Offense, defense and pitching. None of it good.

After the loss, a team meeting was held.

“It was just to let them know that we only played two games,” Washington said. “And we can’t get off track. Our focus is a 162-game championship season. Not two games. It hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go. But we’ve just got to make certain that we come to the ballpark ready to go.”

This was always going to be a difficult series. The Orioles are arguably the best team in the American League. It’s difficult to open across the country, facing as good a lineup as this league offers. And the Angels already had to face a Cy Young Award winner in the opener.

But it also highlights the gap between these two teams. Baltimore went out and traded for Corbin Burnes, who struck out 11 and allowed one hit and one run over six innings on Thursday. The Angels said they were “aggressive” in the trade market, but didn’t acquire any big leaguers in a trade this offseason.

The Orioles suffered through a miserable season in 2021 but did so for a rebuild — one that’s paid dividends. The Angels, perpetually in no-man’s land, both cut payroll by $41 million, but also refused to endure the pain of what a true rebuild entails. Two of their young, intriguing players in Jo Adell and Mickey Moniak only entered the first two games because of the lopsided score.

Luis García was warming up in the fifth in case Canning needed assistance in escaping the inning. It was a two-run game at that point. But Canning, at 79 pitches in the season’s first start, re-entered for the sixth. The first two reached. Then Garcia came in and allowed four batters to get on base.

He exited his season debut with an infinite ERA. And Guillermo Zuniga came in. Three batters later, the score was 12-1. All nine batters who came up that inning had scored.

“All of a sudden, we couldn’t get anybody out,” Washington said. “No matter who we brought in. I think we brought in three pitchers to try and get three outs. Until then, we were in the ballgame.”

Last season, the Phillies started 0-2 and were outscored 27-10. They finished a game shy of the World Series. These two games won’t define this season. But this club also has to hope that these two games are not indicative of what’s to come.

The Angels spent the Friday off day at Camden Yards. Washington wanted to make sure his team stayed engaged amid an early season break. It was a full-team workout.

Just one day later, the whole team, coaches and staff included, didn’t exit the clubhouse until about 25 minutes after the game ended.

Messages and gestures and talks of togetherness have been the modus operandi of this club in the Washington tenure. But now the games have started. And they need the on-field results to be there too. Even if it is early.

“I think all of us need to take a look at what we did tonight,” said outfielder Taylor Ward, “and learn from it, and then turn the page quickly.”

(Photo of Aaron Hicks attempting to catch Anthony Santander’s three-run homer in the sixth inning Saturday: Mitchell Layton / Getty Images)

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