ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Home runs spoiled Tuesday’s homecoming for the Reds’ Tyler Mahle as Cincinnati fell to the Los Angeles Angels 5-1.
Mahle – a native of nearby Newport Beach who attended high school just 15 minutes from Angel Stadium – was coming off arguably his best game of 2019, in which he threw seven innings of two-run, four-hit ball in a no-decision against the AL West-leading Astros. On Tuesday night, however, he didn’t make it past the fifth.
The Reds and Angels traded home runs in the first inning. With a 2-1 count and the bases empty, Joey Votto — serving as the Reds’ designated hitter — hit a 94 mph sinker just over the center field wall to put the Reds on the board. The lead would prove to be short-lived. In the bottom of the inning, Angels leadoff hitter Tommy La Stella hit a 3-1 fastball to deep center that a leaping Nick Senzel couldn’t quite glove, and after an Angels-friendly carom, La Stella was able to round the bases for an inside-the-park home run.
A more traditional longball followed in the bottom of the second, when Los Angeles shortstop Luis Rengifo hit a 1-out, full-count fastball into the right-center bleachers to give the Angels a three-run lead that they never relinquished.
Tuesday’s game was just Cincinnati’s seventh ever at Angel Stadium, known locally as “the Big A.” During the team’s previous visit to Orange County in late 2016, the Angels had Cincinnati seeing red, outscoring the visitors 16-4 during a three-game sweep that saw Zack Cozart, Brandon Phillips and Billy Hamilton go a combined 2-for-33.
All-world outfielder Mike Trout, meanwhile, devoured Reds pitching over the course of that series, going 6-for-8 with three doubles and a home run en route to being named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for the second time.
Of course, Cincinnati pitchers aren’t the only ones who have trouble getting Trout out, as he’s having another monster season this year (.307/.466/.642 going into Tuesday’s game). Mahle, however, kept him relatively in check, as Trout managed only a harmless bloop single in three plate appearances before Mahle exited.
The Reds helped the Angels’ cause in each of the first three innings with base running blunders by Suarez and Jose Peraza and a threat-neutralizing double play by Yasiel Puig. Puig was later ejected after objecting to being called out on strikes. Manager David Bell was also tossed.
Mahle wasn’t the only Reds hurler pitching in his backyard, as Anaheim native Michael Lorenzen entered the game in the 7th. He yielded a leadoff single to La Stella to bring up Trout, whose fly-out to the base of the center field wall advanced pinch runner Wilfredo Tovar. Shohei Ohtani subsequently flew out to deep left, where Peraza – moved to the outfield after Puig’s ejection – began leisurely jogging toward the dugout, seemingly thinking that the inning was over. Tovar, however, never stopped running after tagging up from second and was able to beat Peraza’s throw home to pad the Angels’ lead.
Tuesday’s game marked the beginning of what is likely the Reds’ final series of the year without Scooter Gennett, who appears on track to make his 2019 debut this weekend following a three-month stint on the injured list.
I was interested to read in Steve Mancuso’s recent analysis of the Reds’ starting pitchers that in 2019, Mahle had thrown a first-pitch strike against 68% of the batters he faced. On Tuesday, he wasn’t quite as sharp to open the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 12 of 23 batters.
A recent story in The Athletic noted that Joey Votto has a reputation for being a prolific talker. Right on cue, after walking in the top of the 3rd, Votto engaged in an animated conversation with Angels first baseman (and longtime Cardinal) Albert Pujols.
Phillip Ervin made two nice plays in deep left field to collect the final two outs of the bottom of the third.
Trout fouled off a pitch in the 7th that was caught by a gentleman — who was wearing a Trout jersey, no less — sitting directly in front of me along the first base side in shallow right field.
For the first time, I listened to a radio broadcast as I watched a game in person, and despite a two-pitch delay from real time, it was a pleasure to listen to Tommy Thrall and Jeff Brantley call the game. Brantley’s a gifted, engaging storyteller, and Thrall was an excellent foil who coaxed fun-to-hear stories out of The Cowboy. Kudos to both.
The Reds and Angels play again tomorrow afternoon at 8:07 PM ET. The starting pitching matchup features Tanner Roark for the Reds.