The Angels were facing a pitcher not exactly known for racking up strikeouts. They were facing a Houston Astros team in the midst of a weeklong hitting slump. They were trying to bounce back from a gut-wrenching defeat the day before.
Instead, they stumbled to their fifth loss in their last seven games.
Little went right for the Angels in an 8-2 defeat at Minute Maid Park. They recorded just eight hits and struck out 15 times, including eight through the first three innings against Astros starter Cristian Javier. Their own starter, Alex Cobb, lasted just 22/3 innings, surrendering five runs (four earned) with six hits, three walks and four strikeouts.
Worst of all, Mike Trout left the game in the fifth inning with a left elbow contusion after getting hit by a pitch the inning before.
Luckily for the Angels, it doesn’t seem as though Trout’s injury is serious. Manager Joe Maddon said postgame he thinks Trout should be able to play Friday.
There wasn’t much else encouraging about the first of the Angels’ four-game series in Houston, however, starting the weekend flat in a ballpark where they’ve now won only three out of their last 18 games.
Here are three observations from Thursday’s game.
Trout’s elbow contusion
In a full count in the fourth inning, Javier threw Trout a 93.1-mph fastball up and in.
The ball hit Trout, who had left his arm extended from his body, directly on his elbow pad.
Trout immediately reeled away in pain, walking slowly to first base. From the dugout, an Angels trainer went running toward the three-time MVP, with Maddon following close behind.
Trout stayed in the game to run the bases, then played in the field during the bottom of the fourth. But in the top of the fifth, Scott Schebler walked out on deck in Trout’s place and took over for him defensively the next half inning.
The YouTube game broadcast later aired a clip of Trout, who was wearing a microphone throughout the contest, appearing to tell Astros third baseman Alex Bregman that he thought it was a slider from Javier and that he had trouble picking up the pitch, potentially explaining why it looked like he hadn’t made more of an effort to get out of the way.
Trout later told Bregman, “If I didn’t have a pad, bro …” and then simply gave a shake of his head — seemingly indicating a worst-case scenario had been averted.
The Angels escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning — then promptly surrendered three runs apiece in the second and third, allowing an Astros lineup that had averaged fewer than three runs per game during a 1-9 skid to quickly pull away.
Aledmys Díaz and Myles Straw began the second with a double and triple, respectively, before Albert Pujols committed an error trying to field a ball at first. Then Cobb hit a batter and walked two others, the latter scoring a run with the bases loaded.
The Astros came right back and added three more in the third. After Martín Maldonado doubled and Alex Bregman drove him home with a single, Cobb was replaced by left-hander Alex Claudio with two outs. Instead of keeping the deficit at four, Claudio gave up a ground-rule double to Michael Brantley and a two-run single to Bregman that made it 6-0.
Injured trio travels
The few pieces of good news for the Angels were announced before the game.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon (left groin strain), catcher Max Stassi (left thumb sprain) and outfielder Juan Lagares (left calf strain) — each of whom are on the 10-day injured list — all made the trip with the team.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.