ANAHEIM — A good start came apart quickly for José Suarez, continuing to show the caution flag in his otherwise encouraging second half.
Suarez has struggled the third time through an opposing lineup, including allowing a fifth-inning grand slam to Carlos Santana in the Angels’ 9-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Monday afternoon.
With the loss, the Angels (64-83) were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. They have not made the playoffs since 2014, the third-longest drought in MLB behind Seattle (2002) and the Philadelphia Phillies (2012).
Until the fifth, it looked like yet another strong performance for the left-hander. But then he walked No. 9 hitter Curt Casali. Suarez then began his third look at the Mariners’ lineup.
Mitch Haniger singled. Suarez hit Ty France with a pitch. He then fell behind Santana before throwing him a 3-and-1 pitch on the outside corner that Santana launched over the left field fence, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 5-0 deficit.
On one swing, Suarez gave up more runs than he had allowed in any of his previous eight second-half starts. Since he started throwing a new changeup and using his slider more, he has pitched to a 2.81 ERA over those nine starts. For the season, his ERA is 4.11.
His second-half resurgence has likely led the Angels to pencil him in as a member of the 2023 rotation, but he is going to have to clean up his issues if he’s going to be successful.
Opponents have a .523 OPS against Suarez in their first look at him in his starts. The second time though, it jumps to .780. The third time through, it’s 1.135.
Last season, Suarez didn’t have the issue to this extreme. His opponents’ OPS went from .667 to .714 to .776.
Most pitchers get worse the more often they face a lineup, which is why teams have taken to pulling starters so quickly these days or using an opener. That allows a pitcher to face more hitters before he sees the top of the order for the third time.
When Suarez gave up the grand slam on Monday, it put the game out of reach. With Mike Trout getting a day off, the Angels produced just one run on eight hits. They didn’t score until the sixth, which was their third time seeing Seattle starter Logan Gilbert.
Shohei Ohtani doubled, his only hit of the day. He went to third when Matt Duffy’s drive to center ticked off the glove of Dylan Moore and he scored on Taylor Ward’s sacrifice fly.
More to come on this story.