MLB: Angels’ Carlos Estevez hopes for chance to write different ending vs. Guardians

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Carlos Estevez was in good company last season, joining Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout as the Los Angeles Angels’ All-Star Game representatives.

This year, Trout is hurt, Ohtani plays for the Dodgers, and Estevez simply hasn’t been good enough.

Estevez, the Angels’ closer, went on to save 31 games in 35 opportunities while posting a 3.90 ERA in 2023. But as the Angels and Cleveland Guardians wrap up their three-game series Sunday afternoon in Anaheim, Calif., this season is a different story.

Following Saturday’s 4-3 Guardians win, Estevez is still the Angels’ closer, but he doesn’t have the same grip on the spot he once did.

He gave up a game-ending RBI single in the 10th inning to the Astros’ Jeremy Pena on Tuesday and hasn’t pitched since. He was tagged with the 6-5 loss and fell to 0-3 with a bloated ERA of 5.06 ERA in 16 appearances. And with three blown saves in 10 save situations, the question about his job security at the back end of the Angels’ bullpen was asked of Angels manager Ron Washington.

“We haven’t given up on him,” Washington said. “When the game is on the line and we’ve got a chance to win the game, we’re going to give the ball to Estevez. We’ve just got to ride it out and see where it goes. But as far as us making changes, we’re not making changes.”

Washington’s other options for the closer spot are Luis Garcia, who has three saves, and Hunter Strickland, who has a 2.05 ERA in 21 games.

Left-hander Reid Detmers (3-4, 5.80 ERA) will be on the mound for Los Angeles on Sunday to make his 11th start of the season. He won his first three starts and posted a 1.04 ERA but hasn’t won since. He’s 0-2 with a 10.53 ERA in four starts in May, giving up seven homers in 19 2/3 innings.

Detmers is 1-2 with a 6.29 ERA in five career starts vs. Cleveland.

Right-hander Ben Lively (3-2, 2.84 ERA) will make his eighth start of the season for Cleveland, which has won eight games in a row. He has won his past two starts, including 3-1 Monday over the New York Mets when he gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.

In two career appearances (one start) against the Angels, he’s 1-0 with a 5.14 ERA.

In contrast to the Angels’ difficulties at the closer spot, the Guardians are thriving with Emmanuel Clase. He topped the majors with 44 saves last season and has picked up where he left off with an MLB-leading 16 saves in 19 opportunities. And he has allowed just one earned run in 26 1/3 innings this season, an ERA of 0.34.

“It’s so nice to be able to hand him the ball in the ninth and just kind of sit back and watch,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “He’s done everything that we’ve asked and more, and it’s so fun to watch him out there just smiling.”

Despite his major-league-leading save total last year, he also had 12 blown saves. As a result, Clase was determined to find his flaw and fix it.

The problem: focus.

“It’s just focusing even more every single pitch, every single game compared to last year,” Clase said through an interpreter. “So I think the only difference is just the focus.”

–Field Level Media

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