1 step forward, 2 steps back: Phil Nevin/bullpen cost Angels a win
The Los Angeles Angels pulled off a thrilling win on Friday night. They got a decent start from Tyler Anderson, and after a rare run given up by Matt Moore, the team rallied against one of the best closers in baseball to steal a game in a city they hadn't won in their last ten tries.
That win was amazing, and it also could not have happened without Phil Nevin. It finally felt like the Angels manager pushed all of the right buttons and was actually a big reason they won that game.
Yesterday Nevin showed Angels fans exactly why they've been calling for him to be fired since before Opening Day.
LA Angels manager Phil Nevin follows great performance with utter disaster in loss vs. Guardians
To start yesterday's game, it actually felt like Nevin was going to push the right buttons once again. Mickey Moniak made his season debut on his birthday and hit leadoff. This was a curious decision when the Angels had someone like Zach Neto there who could easily take Taylor Ward's spot for the day, but Nevin stuck Moniak in there, and the young outfielder rewarded him by launching a leadoff home run. Not only did Moniak do that, but he also singled twice, stole two bases, and walked.
Another button I think Nevin pushed right was pulling the plug on Reid Detmers early. The Angels left-hander got through five scoreless but gave up a leadoff walk and an RBI double to start the sixth before being pulled. Nevin didn't have to do this as Detmers was only at 83 pitches, but knowing how badly he's struggled facing hitters for the third time, Nevin took him out. Chris Devenski allowed his inherited run to score, but that was all.
The Angels were able to tack on some insurance in the seventh and eighth innings to give themselves what felt like a comfortable 6-2 lead. The Guardians are one of, if not the worst offensive team in baseball, so it felt like the bullpen could get six outs with a four-run cushion. Unfortunately, Phil Nevin and the bullpen had other ideas.
After Andrew Wantz got through a scoreless seventh, but walked the leadoff batter and got help from Zach Neto on a sensational double play. He started the eighth which was nothing new, but was already at 16 pitches.
After getting the leadoff man out, Wantz would allow four straight singles which would plate two Cleveland runs and get them right back in this game. He'd throw 39 pitches which were nine more than he had thrown in any outing this season and more pitches than he had thrown in any outing since 2021.
After pulling Wantz, instead of going to the closer against a formidable bat, Nevin went to Ryan Tepera, a reliever who has really struggled this season. Tepera of course allows not only the back-breaking three-run homer but also the home run to give Cleveland an insurance run. The Angels would threaten in the ninth as they always do but fall short, losing 8-6.
Nevin made two awful choices in that eighth inning. Starting Wantz was fine, but there was no reason to leave him in for four (!) straight hits when he was clearly running on fumes. Going to at this point a bad reliever in Tepera in that big of a spot was also a decision that made very little sense.
Of course, relievers have to get outs as well, but Wantz and Tepera were put in awful situations by Phil Nevin. I thought it was appropriate to give Nevin praise after the job he did on Saturday, so it's only fair to criticize him for what I felt cost the Angels this game. Again, he shouldn't take 100% of the blame, but he did a very poor job.