Angels' losing streak extends to 12 games as they are blanked by Red Sox

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Boston Red Sox' Christian Arroyo (39) steals second base ahead of a throw to Los Angeles Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Monday, June 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
The Boston Red Sox's Christian Arroyo steals second base ahead of a throw to Angels second baseman Luis Rengifo during the fifth inning Monday night at Angel Stadium. The Angels lost 1-0. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

You want to be the guy.

Michael Lorenzen, starting for the Angels on Saturday night at Philadelphia, wanted to be the guy. Then he got knocked around for five runs in the first inning. Aaron Loup, entering in the eighth inning with a four-run lead Sunday, wanted to be the guy. On the mound, he told himself again and again, “This is where it ends.” Then he loaded the bases and left without finishing the inning.

You want to be the guy for the Angels who stops this skid, Loup said, this free fall out of the division lead and out of a wild-card spot. But being the guy comes at a price. Younger pitchers, Loup said, can start to press too much.

Noah Syndergaard, the 6-foot-6 right-hander with a slowing fastball but mountains of moxie, seemed like he might be the guy Monday night against the Boston Red Sox. Except the Angels’ bats offered little in a 1-0 loss and all Syndergaard (4-4) had to show for six innings of one-run ball was a loss.

Their shovels continue to dig. The hole continues to widen. Nobody has been the guy for 12 consecutive losses. The Angels fell to 27-29 on the season after sitting at 24-13 three weeks ago. The 12-game skid is their worst in a season since they lost 12 straight games to end 1988.

“I understand, if you’re an Angels fan, nobody’s happy,” manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “But it’s early enough in here to do something different about this, and we intend to.”

That something different, Maddon said, was getting superstars Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani going. Simple enough, in theory, for two of the game’s greatest players to break out of slumps.

But even with Trout finally notching a hit off Boston’s Michael Wacha to end a career-worst 0-for-26 skid, a sharply hit first-inning line drive to left field to follow Ohtani’s single, the two were largely quiet again Monday. Ohtani still hasn’t found the groove from his 2021 most-valuable-player season.

It was a frustrating offensive showing for the Angels, who sprayed balls across the field but walked away empty-handed. Wacha (4-1) pitched a three-hitter for his first shutout in five years, and Boston (28-27) won its fifth straight game. In the seventh inning, the Angels seemed poised to strike after Trout walked to lead off the inning and Jared Walsh hit a screaming line drive that was caught on the left side of the infield.

“That was a big moment in the game,” Maddon said.

Walsh picked up his bat and gave it a couple of pounds against the turf. Max Stassi then grounded into a double play. Nothing was working.

“We hit the ball hard, just right at people,” Trout said after the game. “That’s baseball.”

Angels pitcher Noah Syndergaard stands on the mound during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox.
Angels pitcher Noah Syndergaard gave up one run in six innings but took the loss and dropped to 4-4. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It was a reversal from many losses during the streak in which pitching let the Angels down early and late. Syndergaard pitched well, missing the sweet spot of bats enough and surviving some rockets from Red Sox hitters that died just before the warning track. He also was saved by a tremendous sprinting grab by Trout in center field on Alex Verdugo’s sixth-inning shot.

On May 31, with the Angels’ losing streak at five games, Syndergaard took the ball at Yankee Stadium with thoughts of being the guy.

“It didn’t work too well for me,” he said Monday.

In that start against the New York Yankees, he gave up five runs and seven hits in just 2 1/3 innings. So when he faced another American League East foe in the Red Sox, Syndergaard was well aware of the circumstances — but he was determined to slow the game down. This start, he said, was a “meditation.”

It’s a far cry from the early-20s version of Syndergaard, the fiery New York Met who pumped 100-mph gas by helpless hitters. The velocity is down a few ticks since injuries wiped out the better part of two seasons. But in working his way back, he has become a gentle giant.

“I just tried to focus on staying present, centering myself … focusing on my breath and taking it one pitch at a time,” Syndergaard said.

Maddon preached calm after Monday’s loss. The zen was broken for a moment, though, when a reporter asked whether the Angels still were competing. The manager was frank and said the games haven’t always been pretty.

“The way we’ve lost them is excruciating at times,” Maddon said.

So where do the Angels go from here? Trout said they can’t focus on the number of losses or else the skid will grow. Teammates have been honest about feeling the streak’s weight. A jovial early season clubhouse mood has dulled, even as relievers Jimmy Herget and Ryan Tepera shot pool before Monday’s loss.

“We’ll figure it out,” Loup said. “It can’t go bad forever.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.