ANAHEIM, Calif. — Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak hit the go-ahead homer in Monday night’s contest that helped propel his team past the Red Sox in the opener of this three-game series.
In his next at-bat Tuesday, Moniak drilled a leadoff homer off Brayan Bello, putting his club out in front, 1-0. Bello was tagged for another solo homer in the fifth courtesy of Matt Thaiss.
Bello otherwise was dominant, continuing an impressive run of starts for the young righthander, who has a 2.57 ERA in his last five outings, despite a 4-0 Red Sox loss.
A 21-pitch first frame didn’t hinder the righthander’s seven-inning performance. In fact, after the third and final hit of the first, Bello retired the next 10 batters he faced until the Thaiss homer brought that streak to a close.
Bello struck out six, working his four-seam fastball and changeup mix. He negotiated nine ground-ball outs, eliciting uncomfortable swings from Angels hitters who, when they did make contact, appeared as if they were hitting a bowling ball. It was the first time in Bello’s career that he pitched seven frames.
“It feels really good,” Bello said afterward. “I think if I keep throwing the ball well and attacking hitters like today, I think it’s gonna be easy for me to go six or seven.”
The Sox offense, however, much like in the previous game with Tanner Houck on the hill, didn’t come through for the righthander.
Angels starter Griffin Canning had a 6.14 ERA in six starts this season. But the Red Sox made Canning look like he was Bob Gibson. He held the Sox to just two hits through seven, fanning five through that span, and although he walked three, those free passes didn’t come back to haunt Canning.
The Sox offense has carried the team for much of the first two months of the season, but the team has been held to just one run and two extra-base hits in their last 32 innings.
The Sox were hitting just .197 with a .559 OPS in their first four games of this west coast trip. After just two hits total Tuesday, including hitless nights for the first six batters in the Sox order, that number certainly has taken another blow.
“This is not us,” manager Alex Cora said. “But we have to make adjustments. People, they watch and they see and they make adjustments. I think we’re getting to the point in the league that sample matters. It’s not what you’ve been doing the first 40 games or what you have done in the past.”
The Sox had a chance in the eighth to get on the board against reliever Matt Moore, but their bats remained on east coast time. Rob Refsnyder, the pinch hitter, drew a walk on five pitches to begin the inning. Yet Alex Verdugo grounded into a fielder’s choice and Masataka Yoshida hit into a double play.
“I mean it’s just baseball,” said Justin Turner, who finished 0 for 3 with a walk. “It’s a long season with ups and downs. I think we are hitting a lot of balls hard this series that aren’t getting rewarded for. It’s just the way it goes. We just have to show up tomorrow and figure out a way to win a ballgame.”
The Red Sox brought on Joely Rodriguez for the eighth, hoping to keep the game close, but a Mike Trout two-run shot stretched the Sox’ deficit to four runs. Given the Sox’ struggles offensively during this west coast swing, that Trout homer made a comeback seemingly improbable.
Some key bats have gone cold. Alex Verdugo is hitting just .192 in his last seven games and .211 in his last 15. He has just one RBI in his last 12 contests and his average has dipped to .283 after spending much of the year over .300. Jarren Duran, who has offered a spark to this team, is also batting .192 over his last seven, and equally, .192 across his last 15 contests. Despite two homers last Friday against the Padres, Rafael Devers still hasn’t found his stride at the dish after his 0 for 4 night (1 for his last 15), dropping his average to .249.
“There are a lot of empty at-bats,” Cora said. “That’s the first time I’ve said that this season.”
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.