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OC Register: Patrick Sandoval struggles, clutch hitting absent in Angels’ loss to Twins

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ANAHEIM ― The Angels kicked off their “Country Weekend” theme on a high note Friday.

Saturday, they found themselves in a low enough place to make friends with Garth Brooks.

The Angels went 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position and left eight runners on base, losing 6-2 to the Minnesota Twins before an announced crowd of 35,688 at Angel Stadium.

Shohei Ohtani homered, but a troubling start by Patrick Sandoval (3-3) combined with a punchless offense to make for a long evening.

Sandoval struggled mightily in his ninth start of the season. His fastball, which normally averages 94 mph, was sitting at 89 mph in the first inning. Not coincidentally, the Twins were able to send  seven batters to the plate and score three runs before the Angels came to bat.

Donovan Solano began the evening by sending a screaming line-drive single into left field. Sandoval fell behind Carlos Correa 3-and-0 before ultimately walking him to end an 8-pitch at-bat. With one out, back-to-back singles by Kyle Farmer and Kyle Garlick drove in both runners. Minnesota scored once more on a Willi Castro bunt.

Down 3-0, the Angels were entrenched in a hole from which they could not recover.

Right-hander Louie Varland did most of the heavy lifting. He didn’t allow a runner past first base until the fourth inning, when Hunter Renfroe singled and went to third base on a double by Chris Drury ― a ball that landed a few feet shy of a home run off the right field fence.

Jared Walsh, playing his first major league game since August of last year, grounded out to score Renfroe with the Angels’ first run. But the Angels could do nothing with a runner on third base and one out, as Gio Urshela grounded out and Matt Thaiss popped out to end the inning.

Sandoval pitched into the fourth inning, when he eclipsed the 100-pitch mark and bequeathed a pair of runners to reliever Zack Weiss after on a walk and a single. By then, Sandoval’s fastball had ticked up to 92 mph. It was too little, too late.

At 4 ⅔ innings, the outing was Sandoval’s shortest since a four-inning start against the Yankees on April 20. He was charged with three runs, all earned, and saw his ERA rise to 3.47. Weiss was fortunate to retire Willi Castro on a 108-mph lineout to right fielder Hunter Renfroe to end the inning.

A home run by Joey Gallo extended Minnesota’s lead to 4-1 in the sixth inning. Ohtani answered with his 11th home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth, a moonbeam to right field that narrowed the deficit to 4-2.

The Angels got no closer. After Ohtani’s home run, Renfroe singled and Brandon Drury was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with none out. Left-hander Jovani Moran relieved Varland with a left-hander, Walsh, in the batter’s box.

Walsh tried to bunt the runners over, but lined out softly to third base on his second attempt of the plate appearance. Urshela grounded out. Switch hitter Luis Rengifo pinch hit for Matt Thaiss, another left-handed hitter, and struck out.

With Andrew Wantz on the mound in the seventh inning, the Twins scored twice more. Kyle Farmer singled, then scored on a triple by Trevor Larnach. When the relay throw from Drury, the second baseman, overshot third base, Larnach was able to score the Twins’ sixth and final run.

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