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Patrick Sandoval Tops Justus Sheffield In Battle Of Prospect Lefties

ANAHEIMPatrick Sandoval keeps inching closer to his first career win. The Angels No. 7 prospect is just going to have to wait a little while longer.

Sandoval allowed one earned run in four innings before running up against his pitch count on Tuesday night. He came away with a no-decision, but his outing was strong enough to set the tone early in the Angels’ 10-2 win over the Mariners in their home opener.

Sandoval allowed four hits, walked one and struck out four. He came out for the fifth in line for his first career win, but after Dylan Moore hit a leadoff double and Mallex Smith reached on an error, Angels manager Joe Maddon came out and took the ball with Sandoval at 62 pitches.

“We had set it up between 60 and 65 (pitches) was going to be the magic number,” Maddon said. “He’s going to get plenty of wins. He’s going to get stretched out, stay healthy and he’s going to have a long career ahead of him. He’s really good.”

The decision was understandable. Sandoval revealed earlier this month that he tested positive for COVID-19 in June. He was a late arrival to summer camp and is still building up.

The fact the 23-year-old lefty even made the Angels rotation with the delayed arrival is a testament to his ability. His record stands at 0-4, 4.78 through 11 career appearances (10 starts), but he and the Angels know it’s only a matter of time before his first win comes.

“I try not to think about it that much,” Sandoval said. “I just want to get out there and give our team the best chance to win. That’s my goal out there every time I go out.”

Sandoval’s stuff was plenty crisp throughout the evening. He threw 40 of 62 pitches for strikes, averaged 93 mph on his fastball and got five swinging strikes apiece on both his slider and changeup.

The success of his slider was particularly notable. Sandoval is primarily known for his devastating changeup, but he threw his slider 17 times compared to his changeup 11 times on Tuesday. Despite throwing his slider more, he allowed fewer balls in play on it (one) than his changeup (two).

“They had a lot of lefties in there today and that’s what we came up with before the game,” Sandoval said. “That’s how we were going to neutralize the lefties and it ended up working out really well. It’s a pitch I’ve been working on for a while now and it was good to let it rip today.”

With three pitches working for strikes, Sandoval largely kept the Mariners in check. Tim Lopes took a changeup off the outer half of the plate the other way for a solo home run in the fourth. Beyond that, there was little damage to speak of.

“I love his stuff,” Maddon said. “I think as he does this more he’s going to create a package knowing what he wants to do against righties and lefties. He’s got a nice slider, a nice curve and a really good changeup that plays to both sides. He needs good health and he needs opportunity because he’s really an interesting young pitcher.

“It’s opportunity and time, and he’s going to be really good.”

Sandoval outpitched another top lefty pitching prospect seeking his first major league win. Mariners No. 8 prospect Justus Sheffield lasted only three innings, gave up four hits and four runs, walked four and struck out two. He fell to 0-2, 6.26 in 12 career appearances (eight starts).

Most concerning was Sheffield’s velocity. The 24-year-old has generally averaged 93 mph and touched 97 on his fastball throughout his career. He sat 90-92 against the Angels and topped out at 93.

He did have one bright moment when he struck out Mike Trout swinging, inducing a pair of swings and misses on sliders to finish off the reigning American League MVP.

Beyond that though, it was a frustrating night for the 2014 first-round pick. He threw only 38 of 67 pitches for strikes and fell behind in the count to half (8 of 16) of the batters he faced.

"That’s what’s frustrating," Sheffield said, "because I really worked in the offseason and continued to work in spring training and summer camp, and for me to go out there and walk four guys is just unacceptable. I’ve done that before. I’ve walked guys. That’s not me anymore, and it doesn’t need to be going forward. (That is) really going to be a focus point going into my work here."

The Angels got to Sheffield early, sending eight men to the plate in the third and scoring a pair of runs on an RBI single by Taylor Ward and a fielder’s choice by Justin Upton. Sheffield came out for the fourth but was pulled after allowing a leadoff single to Albert Pujols and walking Tommy La Stella. Nestor Cortes Jr. entered and immediately served up a three-run homer to Max Stassi, sending the Angels on their way to a rout.

Pujols added his 657th career homer in the sixth against Cortes, moving him three away from tying Willie Mays for fifth all-time. Anthony Rendon recorded his first hit as an Angel with a two-run homer in the eighth to cap the scoring.

Sam Huff (Ronald Martinez/Getty) 1272183399

Baseball America Prospect Report — Sept. 24, 2020

Sam Huff crushes two doubles, Randy Arozarena hits two homers, Patrick Sandoval earns his first big league win and more.

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