Griffin Canning struggles as Angels fall to Mariners
The Angels enjoyed a run of improved starting pitching during a recent surge that carried them into the opener of their latest homestand.
Griffin Canning failed to contribute to that run Thursday in the first of four games against Seattle.
After some brief success, the right-hander couldn’t make it through the fourth inning on a night when the Angels blew an early two-run lead and lost to Seattle 6-2.
“It started out really good,” manager Joe Maddon said, specifically noting Canning’s velocity, rhythm and tempo. “It just dissipated pretty quickly.”
With one out in the fourth, Canning was lifted after allowing a three-run homer to Jake Fraley, turning a 2-1 lead into a 4-2 deficit.
In nine of their previous 13 games, Angels starters had gone at least five innings and surrendered no more than three earned runs. The team entered Thursday having won six of nine.
Canning yielded six hits total and walked two. Of his 80 pitches, 50 were strikes.
“I don’t know,” he said afterward. “Just got out of that rhythm I was in those first two innings.”
Following a 1-2-3 first, Canning gave up a leadoff double in the second but escaped with the game still scoreless.
He then allowed a single run in the third before Fraley’s homer ended his night.
“The fastball command kind of went awry,” Maddon said. “He was missing up in the zone again. I don’t think he had really one reliable pitch tonight where, last couple times out, he had everything going on.”
Although he lasted only 3 1/3 innings, Canning has had two shorter starts this season — 2 1/3 innings in April against Houston and two innings last month against Minnesota.
The Angels will now turn to Shohei Ohtani to attempt to get their pitching back in line.
He’ll start Friday and, Maddon announced after the game, will also serve as the Angels’ designated hitter.
In his previous pitching start last Friday in Oakland Ohtani did not bat.
Earlier this week, he was limited to one pinch-hitting appearance during the Angels’ two-game series in San Francisco, where the designated hitter was not in use.
Ohtani returned to his No. 2 spot in the order Thursday but struggled. He went hitless in four at-bats, striking out his first three times up.
Entering Thursday, he was tied for fourth in the majors in extra-base hits (29), while he ranked fifth in home runs (15), sixth in slugging percentage (.597) and seventh in RBI (40).
The Angels scored the game’s first two runs on solo homers by Justin Upton and Jared Walsh off Justus Sheffield in the second.
Maddon decided to move Upton from the top of the batting order — where he had hit in each of his previous eight games —to the cleanup spot.
The adjustment took one pitch to produce positive results.
Leading off the second, Upton hit the opening offering from Sheffield 405 feet to right-center for his 11th home run.
Maddon said the move with Upton was made specifically because of matchups in this game and added that he likes Upton at the top of the lineup.
“I’m not running away from it,” Maddon said. “It’s just based on our personnel right now…I was not just thinking about the beginning of the game but also thinking about the latter part of (Thursday’s) game.”
Upton, who entered Thursday sixth among active players with 317 career home runs, batted .290 with an .859 OPS and scored six runs as the Angels’ leadoff hitter. They were 5-3 in those games.
“He’s been wonderful,” Maddon said. “He’s been very vocal in meetings, setting a great example for everybody else. He’ll do whatever. He really well. That’s not hyperbole. He’ll do whatever.”
After Juan Lagares struck out, Walsh followed with his homer, No. 13 on the year, to give the Angels a 2-0 lead that didn’t last long.