The Angels start a much needed homestand today, after a 10-game road trip that started with promise but ended with a thud. After taking the first two games in Arlington, the Halos dropped six of eight once the calendar hit August.
The late innings, which had been so solid for the Angels since acquiring Ernesto Frieri, suddenly became a daily example of Murphy’s Law. In five of their six losses in August, the Angels led entering the sixth inning.
It’s been a collective struggle for the bullpen this month as Frieri, Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins have each picked up blown saves while David Carpenter and Hisanori Takahashi have been charged with losses -- and we’re only eight games in.
Frieri No Longer Invincible
In his first 13 appearances as an Angel, which spanned 13 innings, Frieri didn’t give up a single hit while striking out 27 hitters. He eventually gave up his first hit on June 2, but didn’t surrender a run until July 15 -- in his first appearance after the All-Star Break.
Ernesto Frieri With Angels This Season
We all knew the complete dominance couldn’t last forever, but few expected such a quick turn for the worse. Since July 15, Frieri has an ERA of 9.00. Only 13 pitchers in the league that have faced over 30 batters in that span have a higher ERA.
Lately, Frieri has been struggling against right-handers as they are slugging .688 against him in his last eight appearances. Almost all the damage has come on fastballs that caught too much plate.
Downs Also Scuffling
Compounding Frieri’s struggles is the fact that Scott Downs began having control issues at nearly the exact same time. Entering the All-Star Break, Downs had given up just one earned run, thanks in part to exceptional control -- six walks in 30 innings.
In six appearances since the break he’s given up six walks in five innings. Only 42 of his last 108 pitches have been in the strike zone.
Aside from the walks, Downs is also suffering from awful luck on balls in play, with 47 percent of them going for hits since the break, including five out of 10 grounders. League average for this season yields hits on 22 percent of ground balls.
The bullpen had better be ready today, as starter Ervin Santana hasn’t thrown more than six innings in his last six starts -- and in two of them he failed to finish the second inning. Of course given that he’s facing the Mariners and their .232 team batting average -- anything is possible.