ANAHEIM — The Angels’ surprising defensive issues were on display in all their ugliness on Tuesday night.
Four more Angels errors – increasing their major league-leading total to 29 in 28 games – led to three unearned runs on their way to an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Angels also lost a player for the second straight night because of a foul ball off his knee.
Justin Upton suffered a left knee contusion in the same way that Anthony Rendon did on Monday, although Upton’s didn’t look nearly as bad. Upton actually remained in the game, drew a walk and played an inning in left field before coming out.
It was all part of a tough night for the Angels, who also gave up four runs on two home runs by Austin Meadows against Ben Rowen in the seventh and eighth innings.
Rowen was pitching because the Angels already trailed 4-1, thanks to the sloppy defense.
It has been an unexpected problem throughout the season’s first month. The Angels projected to be a good defensive team, especially on the infield.
“Part of getting better at pitching is playing better defense,” Manager Joe Maddon said on Monday. “It is disappointing and we’ve got to get better. We’re not going to get five over (.500), 10 over, 15 over until we start pitching the ball like we can and catching the ball like we can. I’m not denying it. We’ve got to get better there.”
On Tuesday night the troubles started in the first inning.
With two outs, Manny Margot hit a hard ground ball directly at shortstop José Iglesias, who bobbled it and was unable to pick it up in time to even make a throw.
On the next pitch, Brandon Lowe hit a grounder to the right side. With the Angels shifted, second baseman David Fletcher was playing in shallow right and had no chance to get an out, but once he got to the ball he kicked it into center field, far enough away that Margot scored.
Starting pitcher Alex Cobb’s biggest issue over the next three innings was self-inflicted, with five walks. But he did not give up any more runs until the fifth, when the defense burned him again.
Randy Arozarena led off with a clean single. He stole second, and catcher Max Stassi’s throw went into center field, allowing him to take third. He scored on a ground ball.
Those two unearned runs were all that Cobb allowed, but the Rays scored two more in the sixth with more help from the Angels. With runners at first and second and one out, Stassi let an Alex Claudio pitch get by him for a passed ball.
Because both runners moved up, the Angels had to bring the infield in, and that allowed Kevin Kiermaier’s bouncer to get between first baseman Albert Pujols and Fletcher, knocking in two runs.
More to come on this story.