Though recent injuries have forced Angels manager Joe Maddon to shuffle his lineup, one consistent piece has been Mike Trout.
But even Trout and his late-inning magic weren’t enough Saturday night.
After the three-time most valuable player regained the Angels’ lead with a two-run homer in the seventh, the team’s bullpen — specifically Kyle Barraclough and Aaron Loup — was unable to hold things together.
Aided by an error by second baseman Luis Rengifo, Toronto scored three times in the eighth inning for an eventual 6-5 victory, the Angels’ fourth loss in a row.
Shohei Ohtani returned to the starting lineup, a development that normally would be nothing but positive for the Angels.
But the presence of the American League’s reigning MVP also meant the absence of Taylor Ward, who has been one the team’s most productive hitters this season.
Because of a neck stinger, Ward still cannot play in the field, meaning he’s limited to serving as the designated hitter or pinch-hitting (as he did in the ninth inning Saturday, drawing a walk). And Ohtani is the Angels’ regular DH.
So, it’s simply one or the other at the moment for Maddon, who also is dealing with the loss of Anthony Rendon. The third baseman went on the injured list Friday because of a wrist problem.
“Just imagine, when Taylor’s in there, when Anthony’s in, and you start lining those names up, it’s kind of fun,” Maddon said before the game. “Everybody gets in their right spot and you send that lineup over and the other team looks at it and they can’t decide who they can’t pitch to. They gotta pitch to everybody because everybody’s good.”
The other team this weekend in Anaheim is the Blue Jays, who used run-producing doubles by Matt Chapman and Raimel Tapia — both off the struggling Loup — to regain the lead in the eighth.
Earlier, the Angels lost catcher Kurt Suzuki in a scary scene before the third inning. He appeared to take a bounced warmup pitch from Michael Lorenzen off the throat.
Suzuki was in distress before being helped into the dugout and taken down the stairs toward the clubhouse. The Angels later said he suffered a neck contusion and was alert and undergoing testing.
While trying to maneuver around the injuries, Maddon also is attempting to keep the Angels’ promising start on pace as they encounter their first adverse patch.
“You need that length in your lineup,” Maddon said. “You need your guys to be there. In the meantime, you have to be creative. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. … It’s part of the long season.”
The Angels (27-21) have their second four-game losing streak in the last two weeks. Overall, they’ve dropped eight of 11. And their schedule is about to heat up.
After one more matchup with Toronto on Sunday, the Angels open a stretch in which they play 15 games against both New York clubs, Philadelphia, Boston and the Dodgers.
Three of those teams are in first place and the five are a combined 43 games (139-96) above .500. The dates against the Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers all come on the road.
Ohtani didn’t start Friday in an attempt to rest a slight back issue that surfaced when he was pitching the day before. The problem dissipated and he was able to return as DH, going 0 for 4 with a walk.
Ward continues to progress, though Maddon said it remains unclear when he’ll be able to play to the field. Ward returned to the lineup as the designated hitter Friday — his first start in a week — and struck out three times.
“We want him back,” Maddon said. “We need him back. The lineup — it’s very simple to see — it’s entirely different when he’s out there. We were kind of moving along and then it became more difficult.
“He starts the game off often with being on base or doing some damage. It’s a long year. You gotta be patient sometimes. You never want to be patient, but we gotta be right now because I want him back right.”
Rendon’s setback is just the latest for a player the Angels signed in December 2019 to a seven-year, $245-million deal. Because of injuries, Rendon has played in 151 of a possible 270 games since joining the team.
Tests on his wrist showed inflammation, the Angels unable to set a timeline for his return.
To take Rendon’s roster spot, the team called up right-hander Janson Junk, who pitched a scoreless ninth. Maddon said a pitcher and not a position player was added to “guard the arms” over the next two days. The Angels are off Monday. … Sam Bachman, the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft, pulled himself from the Angels’ double-A game Friday because of back spasms. The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder from Miami of Ohio missed the first three weeks of the season because of the same issue. He returned in early May and was dominant in his first three starts, throwing 11 scoreless innings in which he gave up five hits, struck out six and walked four. A week before Bachman was hurt, Rocket City lost top prospect Trey Cabbage, an outfielder/first baseman who fractured his left forearm in a May 20 collision and will be out three to four months.