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OC Register: Angels still searching for starting pitching length after loss to A’s

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ANAHEIM — After the week it’s had, the Angels bullpen might deserve a break.

On Wednesday, the Angels burned through eight different relievers in a 13-inning marathon against Cleveland. Two nights later, they leaned on six — salvaging a win against the A’s despite starter Parker Bridwell lasting less than two innings.

So on Saturday afternoon, it was only a matter of time before someone asked Mike Scioscia if the Angels’ starting pitching woes was becoming a trend.

The Angels manager responded with, well, mild indignation.

“We’re trying to go out there and pitch as deep as we can in the game,” Scioscia said, speaking before the second of three games against the A’s. “If it’s a trend, there’s not much we’re going to do about it other than just work a little harder, continue to prepare, and hopefully these guys will make pitches and get deeper into a game.”

His club might need a different approach.

The Angels lost to the A’s 7-3 on Saturday, with Scioscia pulling starter JC Ramirez after just two innings. No Angels starter has lasted six innings since Shohei Ohtani, who made his MLB pitching debut on April 1 and will take the mound again Sunday.

Ramirez fell just shy of five frames in last week’s home opener against Cleveland. He gave up five runs in that 6-0 loss, pitching through a broken nail on his index finger. Scioscia mentioned that ailment again before the start of Saturday’s game, but added that Ramirez “feels great now.”

“Hopefully, he’s going to continue to make pitches in the locations he needs to,” Scioscia said. “He spins the ball so well, hopefully he gets some good counts and puts some hitters away.”

Instead, Ramirez walked five batters on 55 pitches, including two of the first three hitters he saw.

He got out of the first inning relatively unscathed when Khris Davis grounded into a double play, but had less luck in the second. Third baseman Matt Chapman, who got on base with a walk, scored on Stephen Piscotty’s line drive to left field. Piscotty and Jake Smolinski — another walk — bumped the A’s lead to 3-0 when shortstop Marcus Semien singled to center.

Ramirez closed the top of the second by striking out second baseman Jed Lowrie, but he didn’t return.

It was a concerning outing for the 29-year-old, whose breakout 2017 season ended six weeks early thanks to an elbow injury. Ramirez underwent stem-cell therapy in September to try and avoid surgery on the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, and said last month, “I feel like I’m back.”

On Saturday, his pitches hovered around 90-91 miles per hour, roughly five or six miles slower than his usual velocity when healthy.

He was replaced by Akeel Morris, recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake earlier in the day. The 25-year-old pitched two scoreless innings before giving up a solo shot to Lowrie.

That cleared the way for Luke Bard, who struck out two batters in the fifth inning, but also walked one and hit another. He lasted 44 pitches, leaving the mound with two outs in the top of the seventh.

Meanwhile, the Angels kept themselves within striking distance. In bottom of the fourth, Justin Upton whacked a two-run homer into right center, trimming the A’s lead to 3-2. In the seventh, Luis Valbuena,  — who has historically struggled against lefties — knocked one out against left-hander Ryan Buchter to pull the Angels within 4-3.

But the A’s responded quickly, adding two more runs in the eighth on Chapman’s triple and Bruce Maxwell’s single against Angels reliever Blake Parker.

Noé Ramírez took over in the ninth and added two strikeouts, but Matt Olson’s single bumped the A’s lead to 7-3.

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There was the depth heading into ST.  Between Shoe, Trope, JC, Heaney, Bridwell, need 2-3 of those to be healthy or perform better for the starting rotation the rest of the season.  This deja vu is frustrating, though!  Shoe and JC both might be dealing with recurring injuries of keeping them out for awhile, themselves, leaving it up to Trope, Heaney, and Bridwell to hold fort.  

Do you trust it or do we petition for them to sign Lackey at this point?

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