José Suarez allows five homers in shaky start for Angels in loss to Athletics

These are the games the Angels need to capitalize on to contend in their division in 2023.

On Monday night, in the start of a four-game homestand against the Oakland Athletics, Angels starter José Suarez gave up five home runs in the first three innings. Suarez left after the fifth inning, and the Angels rallied from a 7-1 deficit to take an 8-7 lead into the ninth, but reliever Jaime Barría walked in the A’s’ tying run in the top of the inning and Oakland then scored three times in the top of the 10th for an 11-10 win.

It is reasonable to question how much patience the Angels have for Suarez as a starting pitcher this season, as he entered the game having given up 12 earned runs in 112/3 innings.

Before Monday’s game, manager Phil Nevin was asked if the Angels needed to start seeing results from Suarez.

“I’m not saying this is an ultimatum, this or that, start, at all, for him,” Nevin said. “Like we said, the stuff has been there… the results haven’t been.”

Coming off his last few starts, the matchup against the A’s — who entered Monday with a major league-worst 4-18 record — should have been a reprieve for Suarez. The Angels have seen what a successful Suarez outing can be. Toward the end of last season, he looked sharper and could pitch through the seventh inning of games.

This season, he has not been able to pick up where he had left off in 2022. On Monday, he managed to pitch his deepest into a game, five full innings. He also gave up seven runs and eight hits, walked two batters, struck out five, and ended his night with an earned-run average of 10.26.

The Angels are still confident in Suarez, and Nevin reiterated that confidence while explaining what exactly Suarez has to improve on.

“He needs to locate better within the strike zone, and he hasn’t done that,” Nevin said. “When he’s gotten outside the zone, he’s walked some guys, so the quality of strikes he’s throwing has to be better and he’ll get there. He’s too good. He worked too hard. And he’s so loved in that clubhouse.”

The Angels would lose more than they would gain if they designated Suarez for assignment. At just 25 years old and with the potential he has shown in the past, there is plausible belief another team would pick him up. But based on his performances of late, he does not seem a good trade candidate.

Angels' Mike Trout high-fives designated hitter Shohei Ohtani after they both scored off of a double hit by Anthony Rendon.

Angels’ Mike Trout (27) high-fives designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) after they both scored off of a double hit by Anthony Rendon during the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium on Monday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Angels could also move Suarez into the bullpen and shift Tucker Davidson (who has been a middle/bulk reliever this season) into the rotation — Davidson pitched 21/3 innings in relief after Suarez on Monday, scattering two hits and striking out three.

The Angels, unlike most teams, need a six-person rotation, or at least a swing sixth pitcher who can slot into the rotation to ensure Shohei Ohtani can stick to his regular five days of rest.

Based on the schedule, the Angels don’t need a sixth starter every turn through the rotation.

The A’s got out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first after Suarez gave up back-to-back solo home runs to Brent Rooker and Jesús Aguilar.

It was the first time this season the A’s managed to hit back-to-back homers.

In the second inning, after walking the leadoff batter and giving up a double to the next, Suarez gave up a three-run home run to Kevin Smith, Smith’s first home run of the season.

Suarez allowed Rooker and Aguilar to go back to back once more in the third. After that inning, Nevin stopped Suarez at the top of the dugout steps to chat with him. Suarez was able to get through his final two innings without giving up any more runs.

The Angels then chipped away at a 7-1 deficit. In the sixth inning, Anthony Rendon, Chad Wallach and Zach Neto combined for five RBIs to tie the score.

Brandon Drury’s RBI single in the seventh inning gave the Angels an 8-7 lead they would relinquish in the ninth inning.

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