For a few moments Friday night, no one was sure what had occurred to a ball lined off the bat of a Tampa Bay Rays hitter.
It might have landed in the glove of Angels outfielder Brian Goodwin, who chased the ball struck by Jesus Aguilar all the way to the center-field wall and leapt to catch it. It might have cleared the fence cleanly.
It was hard to know for sure until Goodwin landed upright on the warning track without either glove or ball and shook his head. That was when an umpire wagged his finger to signal a home run, Aguilar accelerated his slow jog around the bases into a real trot and an Angel Stadium employee scrambled into the empty space in front of the rock pile to retrieve Goodwin’s glove.
The Angels trailed only by three runs at that point. It was not an insurmountable lead, and Kole Calhoun proved it 10 minutes later, hitting his 30th home run to cut the deficit to one. But after starter Andrew Heaney gave up his third homer of the third inning to erase the quaint lead his teammates had given him, the Angels seemed doomed to a fifth straight loss anyway. Mike Trout was missing from the lineup for the sixth straight game because of nerve irritation in his right foot, Shohei Ohtani was home recovering from a surgery that repaired a bipartite patella in his left knee and Justin Upton sat out because of a knee injury that might cut short his season.
Calhoun tried to make up for the of his team’s most powerful bats, slamming a solo shot in the eighth to extend his career-high in home runs to 31. His efforts were mostly useless in an 11-4 loss.
Heaney, whose 3.28 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six starts before Friday’s were the best marks among Angels pitchers with more than 20 innings since Aug. 1, stumbled through 3 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs, four of them on three homers in the third and two in the fourth, and struck out only four. He retired all three batters in the second but put multiple Rays on base in every other inning he pitched.
Had it not been for Calhoun throwing a runner out at the plate to end the first, Heaney might not have put up zeroes in the first two innings.
Heaney’s troubles allowed Tampa Bay starter Charlie Morton to settle into a groove after allowing a one-out RBI single to rookie Luis Rengifo in the second, which drove in Albert Pujols after his leadoff double, and hanging a 94-mph fastball for Calhoun to crush in the third.
Morton retired the final nine Angels he faced in an efficient three-run, six-inning outing. He did enough for the Rays to remain in second place in the American League wild-card standings.
The Angels, meanwhile, were left to ponder if the final 14 games would play out similarly to Friday’s drubbing if they are to play down the stretch without their most potent bats.
Manager Brad Ausmus was not sure before his team’s 81st loss how he would handle Trout the rest of the season. Trout could potentially serve as the Angels’ primary designated hitter now that Ohtani is sidelined, but he needs to be healthy first. Ausmus found out after Trout went through pre-game workouts that the Angels star still felt sore four days after receiving an injection of cold fluids in his right foot, a procedure that was supposed to alleviate the soreness that had dogged him for nearly a month. … Upton met with the team’s medical staff to review the results of the MRI he had on his sore right knee Wednesday and determine next steps.