The Angels knew what was bothering Shuhei Otani when he was pulled off the mound in the sixth inning on Friday night: the middle finger on his right hand, which had worsened from a cracked nail to a finger blister in the weeks leading up to the All-Star break.
The finger has recovered during the fracture. Head coach Phil Nevin said his descent did not aggravate the wound during the Angels’ 7-5 loss to the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium. It also didn’t quite feel right. Ohtani’s finger felt sensitive, Neven said. When asked to share what his finger felt like, Ohtani gave an assessment of his past few starts in promotion.
“For the most part, things didn’t turn out the way I wanted,” Otani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara. “And it was just kind of like when I was on the hill, the couple’s last outing.”
It is unclear if that will affect his next start.
“I haven’t really talked about when I’ll be coming out next,” Ohtani said. “Just kind of I’ll come to the field and see where my finger is. I guess we’ll go from there.”
As uncertain as Otani was at the moment about his next start, so was the future of the Angels (45-47), who lost their sixth straight game and recorded their tenth loss in 11 games.
The Angels know there’s mounting pressure to win with two weeks until the trade deadline, and their games until then pit them against playoff contenders.
After the Astros (51-41), who are in position for a spot in the American League wild card games entering Saturday, the Angels will take on the New York Yankees (49-43), who were two games out of the wild card; And later in the month will play the Toronto Blue Jays (51-41), who are also in position for a wild card.
In the midst of adversity, what gives angels confidence that they can turn things around?
“The talent is in this room,” said team player Mickey Monyak. “It’s a rough patch, no ifs, or but around. But when this team does everything new, I think we can compete with anybody in the league. Just don’t do it now. I’ll just need to really lock it up.”
Ohtani, the biggest star on a team where his continued membership was no guarantee after this season, was evasive when asked how confident he was in the Angels’ ability to win.
“We got a lot of visits today,” Otani said. “Just was missing that big hit to win the match. And we scored enough runs as long as the show, myself included, kept the runs to a minimum. I felt like we could have won today.”
The Angels came out of the All-Star break determined to make their mark. Veteran first baseman Mike Moustakas, whom the Angels were trading at the end of June, gave a speech on unity.
“Go out there and keep playing for each other,” Zach Neto, who returned from the injured list Friday, said as he recalled the speech.
Despite this, the feeling surrounding the club on Friday night was understandably bleak after several foul errors extended the losing streak.
During the top of the fifth inning on Friday, Louis Rengifo, who was playing third base, accidentally threw a bouncy bunker and kicked it, sending it into the outfield turf. Then jog briskly. Kyle Tucker scored from second base and hitter Jose Abreu reached second base. Rengifo has been wrongly accused. When the inning was over, Nevin approached him in the dugout and spoke to him, after which Renjevo picked up his glove and hat and returned to the clubhouse, standing on the bench for the rest of the game.
“Mistakes happen. I will never have a problem with mistakes,” Nevin said. “This is what happens after mistakes. The next play is very important for our team, for the player and for our fans, quite frankly, to let those plays influence us.”
After Ohtani left the mound in the sixth inning, Martin Maldonado hit a sacrifice bunt towards first base with two runners and it looked like the Angels could run a double play. Maldonado barely ran to base, expecting to be tagged out, and runners Cory Goulkes and Jeremy Peña didn’t move on first. But Moustakas ran to the bag to get only one out as Julks and Peña advanced. The two runners later scored on an RBI single by Mauricio Dupont.
“Well, we definitely don’t play very well, so we’re definitely a little bit disappointed,” said coach Aaron Loeb. “Because we know how good we can be. We showed it…so the mood isn’t good, but we’re just hanging in there.”
Inconsistencies in their performances have been evident over the past few weeks – shooting, attacking, defending or sliding all three at different times.
Throw in the injury rush that continues to plague the Angels and you’ve got a team that went in on Saturday with little room for any more losses. Reliever Sam Bachman (right shoulder sore) was the latest on the growing list of ailments and was added to the injured list Friday, along with Anthony Rendon (left leg contusion) and Joe Adele (left oblique strain).
But the Angels aren’t the only team that has had serious injuries to rookies. The Astros and Yankees were getting over their injury problems.
“I get frustrated to a certain point, I mean, not just me, but I feel like the whole team is,” Ohtani said. “[I] I think it’s only normal when you can’t win matches to build up frustration.”
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