ANAHEIM, California: Three hours before the Angels hosted St. Louis on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), Hector Santiago greeted a childhood friend named Trevor Reckling in Angel Stadium’s home dugout.
Six years ago, Reckling was an Angels top prospect, rated in between Mike Trout and Garrett Richards on Baseball America’s leaderboard. Once a promising left-hander, he has more recently modeled than he has pitched in affiliated baseball, but he’s still 26, and he’s planning to throw for scouts soon. When Angels Manager Mike Scioscia recognized him, he asked a staffer to take down Reckling’s contact information.
The Angels are in desperate need of starting pitching. Again Tuesday night in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals, their starting pitcher failed them and staked the opposition to an overwhelming lead.
“It starts with the guy on the mound,” Scioscia said.
Matt Carpenter greeted Tuesday’s guy, Santiago, with a shot down the right-field line to begin the game. The ball traveled 360 feet and evaded the foul pole for a home run. Santiago, working with what he called “bad fastball command,” went on to walk two men in the inning before pitching out of the ill-boding jam.
In the second inning, the hot-hitting Aledmys Diaz delivered a one-out double to score Jedd Gyorko from first. Santiago pitched out of a two-hit third inning, and then retired the Cardinals in order in the fourth. He could not finish the fifth, after consecutive one-out doubles from Stephen Piscotty and Matt Holliday scored a run, and Scioscia brought in right-hander Javy Guerra.
Guerra’s first pitch was a fastball down the middle. Cardinals outfielder Randal Grichuk, another Angels top prospect from 2010, hit it 408 feet to straightaway center, just past Mike Trout’s glove beyond the wall and into the bushes.
It was a two-run home run, and the Cardinals hit two more homers in the sixth inning off reliever A.J. Achter.
The Angels did not have an extra-base hit until the eighth inning, when Cliff Pennington led off with a double against Cardinals starter Mike Leake. That snapped a 26-inning singles-only streak.
Yunel Escobar followed with a single, and Kole Calhoun hit a sacrifice fly. Mike Trout struck out, Albert Pujols reached on an error, and Ji-Man Choi took a called third strike to end the inning.
They went down without a fight in the ninth.
At one point, Leake retired 14 consecutive Angels. The right-hander entered the game with a 6.03 earned-run average and exited it with a 5.10 mark after eight innings of one-run baseball.
Santiago, the Angels’ top healthy pitcher remaining, was charged with four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, his second consecutive lackluster start.
“It was kind of a terrible outing,” he said.
He threw 83 pitches, his fewest this season, and did not come close to the velocity he had at times in April, when his fastball was averaging almost 94 mph.
It averaged less than 90 mph on Tuesday, according to BrooksBaseball.net. The fastest pitch he threw was clocked at 92.5 mph, an indication that something may not be right within the 28-year-old left-hander’s arm. He said he noticed the decline but felt “great.”
“There’s nothing physically wrong with me,” he said.
An Angels starter has not earned a win since April 26, a span of 10 games. The Angels have already lost their top two starting pitchers to injury, in Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, as well as starting shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
They are 13-19, their .406 winning percentage the third-worst in the American League. Their minus-24 run differential is also the third-worst in the league.
“It sucks,” Santiago said. “We lost two good starters. We lost Simmons. But from where we’re at, we’re still positive. Yeah, we’re behind right now, but I think it’s a matter of time before things start clicking.”