The Los Angeles Angels had hope. Sure, the odds were stacked against them, but they had hope. They won a wild game on Saturday night 13-12 in extra innings to gain the ground they lost on Houston by losing the opener of this crucial weekend series. Despite still being under .500, the Angels were just four games back of the final Wild Card spot and had momentum heading into the series finale.
The Angels did not get what they were looking for from Tyler Anderson as he lasted just three innings in the defeat, but they were still in this game from start to finish.
Phil Nevin costs LA Angels a game they had to have
Phil Nevin has been the man fans have wanted gone all season, and for good reason. He didn't get the job out of merit to begin with as he was just an interim manager replacing Joe Maddon, and he only got extended because of Arte Moreno's indecisiveness surrounding what he wants to do with the team. Nevin hasn't done much to show fans he's worthy of the job, and what he did last night further shows how unqualified he truly is.
Despite Anderson's shortcomings, the Angels got good work from Jose Soriano and Zack Weiss to fill in some length. Jacob Webb gave up back-to-back home runs which allowed Houston to turn what was once a 3-1 deficit into a tie game, but the Angels showed once again that they don't quit. A four-run bottom of the seventh highlighted by a Zach Neto RBI double and a Taylor Ward three-run double gave the Angels a 7-3 lead.
Nevin had Carlos Estevez, their all-star closer up in the bullpen to pitch the eighth. The reasoning for that was Houston's heart of the lineup was due and Nevin wanted Estevez to face them. This I would've been fine with had the score been 3-3 or even 4-3. At 7-3, that's just getting too cute.
Nevin brings Estevez into the eighth inning of a four-run game despite the bullpen already not having key relievers Matt Moore and Chris Devenski available, and despite Estevez pitching the night before. The all-star did struggle as he allowed a two-run homer to cut the lead to 7-5.
With the bullpen completely depleted, the Angels turned to Jaime Barria for the ninth inning. A guy who was starting games before the break was tasked with recording his first career save. A walk, a single, and a home run later gave Houston the lead back.It was 8-7 Astros.
Despite having Aaron Loup up in the bullpen, Nevin opted to keep Barria in who had just blown a save to face a guy who absolutely owned him in Kyle Tucker, and Tucker hit a long home run to extend the lead. Shohei Ohtani's home run in the bottom of the ninth got the Angels one run closer, but Tucker's diving catch ended the game with the Angels on the wrong side.
The Angels don't have a fantastic bullpen and didn't have a couple of arms available, but with a four-run lead, they have to find a way. Of course the players have to execute, but Phil Nevin didn't exactly map things out the way he should have.
You always want your best reliever to pitch in the highest-leverage situations. The ONLY way the eighth made sense for Estevez was if you'd use him for two innings. Nevin said that wasn't going to happen. He was going to use Estevez for the eighth and even if Estevez didn't allow a run, Barria still allowed four in the ninth!
I have no idea if using Barria or Loup in the eighth with a four-run lead with Estevez coming in for a three or four-out save would've been a winning formula, but at least the process would've made sense.
Nevin didn't manage the game with the urgency it had as the Angels desperately needed this win to gain ground on Houston, and he paid the price for trying to be too cute. The Angels hope to bounce back against the Yankees this week and will do so with their closer unavailable for the opener and with Barria now unable to start Wednesday. Just an unbelievable botch job by Nevin and the Angels.