ANAHEIM – There have been a few starts this year in which lefty Patrick Sandoval did not have his best stuff, but was still able to grind out quality innings.
On Sunday afternoon, Sandoval had it all working against the A’s, dominating with 7 1/3 strong innings in a 4-1 win to give the Angels the series victory at Angel Stadium. Sandoval gave up one run on four hits and struck out seven, improving to 3-1 with a 1.79 ERA in seven starts. His ERA ranks seventh among pitchers with at least 40 innings this season, behind only Justin Verlander (1.22), Michael Kopech (1.29), Pablo López (1.57), Alek Manoah (1.62), Martín Pérez (1.64) and Miles Mikolas (1.68 ).
“This is turning into a typical performance from him,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “The changeup was better today. The slider has been outstanding. His fastball command was better. For my money, when he has his fastball command he should normally be pitching into the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. “
It’s been part of a breakout season for Sandoval, who showed some of that potential last year, when he had a 3.62 ERA in 87 innings. The 25-year-old is simply hard to square up, as he’s allowed just 30 hits in 40 1/3 innings this season. His changeup ranks as one of the game’s best pitcheswhile he also found success with his slider in 2022. He used both to his advantage against Oakland, getting four swings-and-misses with the changeup and three with the slider.
“His stuff, they just do not get good swings against it or good looks at it,” Maddon said. “Did they even hit a ball hard? He gets weak contact. His strike-throwing was better and all his stuff was working . “
Sandoval had a perfect game working early against Oakland, but lost it when Chad Pinder reached on an error by second baseman Luis Rengifo with one out in the fourth. But the lefty struck out the next two hitters to get out of the inning unscathed. He gave up his first hit on a one-out single from Kevin Smith in the fifth, but Sandoval promptly got Elvis Andrus to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Sandoval had a chance for a shutout, as well, but he was hurt by right fielder Tyler Wade losing a fly ball in the sun to open the eighth inning. Wade, who has mostly been an infielder throughout his career, was not charged with an error; it was ruled a leadoff double. Sandoval could not keep Smith from scoring, as he surrendered a one-out RBI single to Cristian Pache. He then walked Luis Barrera on his 92nd pitch of the afternoon and was removed for reliever Ryan Tepera. Tepera escaped trouble with a pair of strikeouts to preserve the lead.
“I was under control with the fastball and more efficient,” Sandoval said. “I would’ve loved to get out of the eighth and maybe go into the ninth. But the walk ended it. My mentality every game is to start it and finish it. I understand getting pulled, but there’s never a time I want to give the ball up. “
Sandoval showed some frustration after being pulled, as he threw down his glove and hat in the dugout. But Maddon liked the fire he saw from Sandoval, who was just angry with himself that he could not go deeper into the game. He’s seen Sandoval mature over the last few years and improve his ability to give the Angels more innings. He’s gone at least 5 2/3 innings in each of his last five outings.
“He wants to pitch into the ninth inning and I know that,” Maddon said. “He’s got an attitude about him in the best of ways. He does not want to come out. He wants to pitch nine and be that guy. “I love it. I’ve seen him grow the last couple years. He used to go to the fourth or fifth with a high pitch count and struggle and come out and be all upset. But he’s gotten past that.”
Sandoval also noted he was able to pitch with a lead throughout most of the game, as two-way star Shohei Ohtani led off the first inning with his ninth homer of the year. Fellow superstar Mike Trout also went 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and a walk to help back Sandoval.
“It was awesome – fireworks,” Sandoval said. “It’s awesome seeing them click and hit bombs. It’s great.”