Red Sox quick to rough up Ricky Nolasco in 6-2 win

on Jul22

The man might as well carry a bell with him to the field and let it ring for all to hear. Ricky Nolasco’s presence on a major league mound this season has steadily sounded a death knell.

Shortly after the Angels’ right-hander started Friday night at Angel Stadium, the game’s outcome was all but certified. Nolasco gave up five runs in 15 minutes to the Boston Red Sox. The remaining three hours mostly served to pad Chris Sale’s strikeout statistics and prolong the inevitable in the Angels’ 6-2 defeat.

“You can’t do nothing but wear it,” Nolasco said. “Down 5-0 with Chris Sale, that’s not good at all.”

When Nolasco has started for the Angels this season, they have won one-quarter of the time — five wins in 20 tries. When anyone else has taken the mound, the Angels have won 54% of their 78 games. That winning percentage would be more than enough to vault them ahead of the wild-card competition in a feeble class of American League clubs.

Alas, in another injury-stricken season, they have counted on him to provide innings, and he has. But they have largely been bad innings. Nolasco owns a 5.13 earned-run average, 11th-worst among qualified starters. Only one major leaguer has been saddled with more than his 11 losses: Boston’s Rick Porcello.

Nolasco’s record has been hindered by poor run support. But above all else, he has given up too many homers, though that was not his problem against the Red Sox. Rather, within the field of play, baseballs continued to land uninhibited on the grass.

To begin, Mookie Betts landed a bloop double in front of left-fielder Shane Robinson, who later exited because of back spasms.

Betts scored when Andrew Benintendi singled into left. Benintendi took second on the throw home and third on Dustin Pedroia’s subsequent groundout.

At that, Angels manager Mike Scioscia called the infield closer. In a 1-and-2 count to Mitch Moreland, Nolasco fired a high fastball, and Moreland punched it past the drawn-in infielders for a run-scoring single.

Next, a Hanley Ramirez single moved Red Sox onto the corners. A wild pitch moved both men up one base and spurred Yusmeiro Petit to action in the Angels’ bullpen.

Two more hits meant two more runs, but Nolasco lucked out for the inning’s second out, as Jackie Bradley Jr. overran second base after doubling. Finally, Sandy Leon grounded out. The anguish was over. Nolasco gave up a sixth run before the Angels’ bullpen patched together five hitless innings.

Bradley made the Angels’ futile comeback efforts against Sale made more difficult when he soared into the center-field wall to steal a likely double from Yunel Escobar.

That was the Angels’ first at-bat of the game. With one out in the third inning, Cliff Pennington sneaked a single into left field for their first hit. Sale had previously issued a first-inning walk to Mike Trout.

The rest of the game mostly supplied vignettes of frustration. To begin the fourth, Albert Pujols popped out into foul territory. As he walked back into the Angels’ dugout, he grabbed his bat by the barrel and swung it at his cleats. When Kole Calhoun struck out with two men on and two out in the sixth, he flung his bat to the dirt, muttered, and then threw his helmet to be with his bat.

That was Sale’s 200th strikeout of 2017. By innings pitched, he became the fastest American League pitcher to ever reach that marker.

Nolasco is the Angels’ leader this season. He has 93.

“The strikeout capability,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Sale, “is certainly unique.”

Martin Maldonado delivered the Angels’ first countable offense with his solo shot to left in the seventh, after Sale had exited. He scored their last run after he walked and Ben Revere singled in the ninth.

The Angels hope to reintroduce four injured starters into their rotation over the next six weeks. For that to happen, incumbents will have to depart. As a free agent at year’s end, Nolasco appears a prime candidate. He may have to pitch for his job in the coming weeks, although the Angels will not fret about that possibility.

“Any time you have competition at any position, it makes you a stronger team with that depth,” Scioscia said. “So, we’re going to welcome it. I don’t think there’s anything in the scope of adding depth that’s an issue. We’re a ways away, but there will be some welcome decisions that we haven’t had in a while.”

Twitter: @pedromoura

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