As productive as the Angels’ offense has been — they led the American League with 189 runs and ranked second with 55 homers and a .744 on-base-plus-slugging percentage through Thursday — their hitters can’t do much damage with the bats on their shoulders.
A 4-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics before 32,422 in Angel Stadium on Friday night was a stark reminder of a glaring weakness in their approach at the plate. Of their 13 strikeouts in their fourth straight loss, seven were looking. The Angels have now struck out looking 116 times, most in the major leagues.
“Swing the bat, right?” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, when asked about the preponderance of called third strikes. “Yeah, I’ve noticed that too. Sometimes I think we get too picky. And then you end up chasing, too. We just have to be a little bit more assertive in the strike zone.
“That’s something we emphasized at the beginning of the year. And we just have to do a better job of that. The preparation is great. The work is outstanding. It’s just up to us to make the adjustment.”
The Angels had a particularly rough time against Oakland relievers Sam Moll, Zach Jackson, A.J. Puk and Dany Jimenez, who combined for 41/3 hitless innings and struck out eight, six of them looking.
Middle-of-the-order hitters Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh whiffed nine times in the game. Trout and Ohtani struck out looking against Jackson in the seventh. Rendon and Walsh struck out looking against Puk in the eighth.
Adding injury to insult, Angels right fielder Taylor Ward came out of the game after slamming face-first into the wall while catching Tony Kemp’s ninth-inning drive.
Ward, who has a major league-leading .370 average and 1.194 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and has hit nine homers with 23 RBIs, was being evaluated by the team’s medical staff after the game.
His glove hand got caught between his face and the wall, and he appeared to jar his shoulder as he hit the wall.
Rookie right-hander Chase Silseth took the loss, giving up three runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings, striking out six and walking two. The 22-year-old faced the A’s one week after giving up one hit, striking out four and walking two in six innings of his big-league debut, a 2-0 victory at Oakland on May 13.
He wasn’t as effective or pitch-efficient Friday night, but he escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the first by getting Luis Barrera to ground out and pitched around Barrera’s leadoff double in the fourth.
He struck out three of four batters in the fourth, two with his split-fingered changeup, one with his slider.
Jed Lowrie lofted a solo homer to right for a 1-0 Oakland lead in the first. Ohtani walked with two out in the bottom of the first, stole second and scored on Rendon’s RBI single to right for a 1-1 tie.
Back-to-back doubles by Ward and Trout off A’s right-hander Paul Blackburn to start the third inning gave the Angels a 2-1 lead.
Lowrie walked with one out in the fifth, and Brown lined a 95-mph, up-and-in fastball into the right-field seats for a two-run homer and a 3-2 A’s lead.
The A’s tacked on another run on Kevin Smith’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.
“He threw the ball well, again,” Maddon said of Silseth, an 11th-round pick out of Arizona last year. “The home run got him at the end. A couple of them did. But I like the aggressive nature, I liked the stuff.
“He’s very confident. Seeing [the A’s] repeatedly in a short amount of time probably helped them a little bit. But he still attacked, and I actually thought he pitched really well.”
The Angels signed left-hander Grant Dayton to a minor league deal. Dayton, 34, had opted out of a minor league deal with Miami after posting a 2.35 ERA at triple-A. He spent parts of five seasons in the big leagues with the Dodgers and Braves and had a 6.23 ERA in 13 games for Atlanta last season. … Catcher Max Stassi (COVID-related injured list) and relievers Archie Bradley (left-abdominal strain) and Jose Quijada (right-oblique strain) will begin rehabilitation stints with Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday. … The Angels lost one of their better power-hitting prospects when 24-year-old infielder Brendon Davis was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.