Angels host Dodgers in matchup of struggling teams

MLB

One day after a new era has started, the Los Angeles Angels will continue to move forward when they open a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday in Anaheim, Calif.

Albert Pujols was designated for assignment Thursday as the club parted ways with the certain Hall of Famer in the midst of the last season of his 10-year, $240-million deal.

Getting a jump on the future was the reason the Angels gave for the move. The club wants to give Jared Walsh more time at first base, while Shohei Ohtani has taken over the designated hitter spot.

Just hours after the news broke Thursday, the Angels grabbed an early lead against the Tampa Bay Rays but the bullpen fell apart late in an 8-3 defeat, surrendering seven runs in the eighth inning. The Angels were swept in the four-game series and have lost seven of their past nine games.

Ohtani showed the DH spot is in good hands with a towering two-run home run in the third inning, his 10th. But Mike Trout, the undisputed leader of the offense, went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

The 41-year-old Pujols had been a shadow of his former self, batting .198 with a .250 on-base percentage in 86 at-bats this season. He did have five home runs but his range on defense was extremely limited.

“Our job as a baseball operation is to analyze what we have, what we need, strengths, weaknesses and for us, we felt like Walsh is a difference-maker at first base,” Angels general manager Perry Minasian said on Bally Sports. “… His athleticism, his ability to play off the bag against a right-handed hitter, I think it’s a difference-maker defensively and he has a chance to be impactful there.”

The Angels will send right-hander Griffin Canning (2-2, 6.20 ERA) to the mound Friday. Canning has one career start against the Dodgers, coming in 2019 when he had a no-decision and gave up three runs on five hits over six innings.

He will be opposed by Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias (4-0, 2.87), who has faced the Angels just once, a 2019 relief appearance when he gave up a run on three hits over 1 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers are 5-1 in Urias’ starts this season, but they are just 4-13 overall going back to April 18.

Looking for answers after a humbling road trip, the Dodgers are getting little from their bullpen and even less from their offense. They went 1-6 on a seven-game visit to Milwaukee and Chicago and were swept in a three-game series against the previously struggling Cubs.

“Yeah, we’re absolutely frustrated,” the Dodgers’ Max Muncy said before Thursday’s off day. “We’re way better than this. Period.”

The Dodgers do have injury concerns. Cody Bellinger hasn’t played since April 5 because of a left leg injury, and a number of key relievers are on the injured list including Tony Gonsolin (shoulder), Brusdar Graterol (forearm), Corey Knebel (lat) and David Price (hamstring).

But their IL issues do not explain leadoff man Mookie Betts batting .235 over his past eight games with three extra-base hits and No. 2 hitter Corey Seager batting .188 over his past 17 games with 13 hits and 15 strikeouts.

“The bottom line is that the little things across the board we’re just not finishing, executing the way we’re capable of doing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “… And it sounds like I’m on repeat, but we need to do a better job.”

–Field Level Media

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