Ernesto Frieri has sunk the Angels battleship. Entering the top of the ninth inning in a 1-1 game against the Rangers, Frieri coughed up a seeing eye single to Michael Young before teeing up a ball for Adrian Beltre to smoke into the left field stands. The Angels would go on to lose 3-1 and fall 4.5 games out of a wild card spot.
What did Zack Greinke do to Ernesto Frieri?
Perhaps he accidentally insulted Frieri’s mother in Spanish while trying to order a burrito? Whatever it was, Frieri’s last two outings have put an anti-exclamation point on two amazing Greinke starts. The first one, and more soul crushing of the two, was on September 15 against the Royals. Greinke went 8.1 shutout innings (he’d get one run charged to him) allowing five hits and two walks. The Angels were up 2-0 before Frieri “relieved” Greinke by surrendering a two-run home run to Billy Butler followed immediately by a walk-off shot by Salvador Perez.
Thursday night, Greinke went another eight innings giving up one run on five hits while striking out eight. The ball Beltre hit off Frieri might not have landed yet. That gives Frieri three home runs surrendered to the last seven hitters he’s faced.
Was Frieri the right call?
It’s pretty easy to say “no” in hindsight. At the same time, you almost have to applaud Mike Scioscia for using his closer in a non-save situation. Frieri was the Angels best reliever. The 27-year-old Colombian went 26.1 innings without allowing a run after joining the Angels via trade from the Padres starting on May 5. Over those innings, he gave up eight hits and 17 walks while striking out a whopping 45.
Frieri gave up his first three runs and first home run for the Angels on July 15. The wheels began to come off. Over his last 21.2 innings, Frieri has given up 14 earned runs on 17 hits including seven home runs. His velocity is fine and he’s still striking guys out (31 over the last 21.2 innings) but he’s been easier to hit especially deep.
Kevin Jepsen, who did warm up at one point, leads the Angels bullpen with a 0.7 fWAR (Fangraphs wins above replacement) thanks to a 2.97 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and a personal best 2.21 BB/9. And Jepsen’s 4.8% HR/FB is a tick better than Frieri’s bullpen leading 14.9% HR/FB. Of course, Beltre could have just as easily hit a Jepsen mistake four miles.
The sinking ship.
I’ve run the white flag about three quarters of the way up the pole. The Angels are 4.5 games behind the A’s and the Orioles with 12 to play. The Halos stay at home for three against the White Sox and three against the Mariners before closing the season on the road for three in Texas and three in Seattle. Right now the Angels have less than a 0.1% chance to win the West (hey, that’s non-zero!) and a 9.4% shot at the Wild Card according to Cool Standings. Hey, stranger things have happened. David Eckstein won the MVP of a World Series. In real life, not a video game.