Matt Thaiss makes critical error in debut game at second base, as Angels’ win streak ends

Joe Maddon took a risk and got burned.

The Angels manager said he had decided to put Matt Thaiss at second base, even though Thaiss had never played a professional game there and he had other options who had, because he wanted to get Thaiss’ bat in the lineup.

Although there were plenty of reasons for the Angels’ 7-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas, certainly the one deserving the most scrutiny was an error by Thaiss that led to two early unearned runs.

  • Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels steals second base against Anderson Tejeda #71 of the Texas Rangers in the fourth inning at Globe Life Field on September 08, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

  • Texas Rangers’ Joey Gallo, front, and Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi, rear, walk back to their respective dugouts after Gallo was called out on strikes during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney throws to a Texas Rangers batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Andrew Heaney throws to a Texas Rangers batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers starting pitcher Lance Lynn follows through on delivery to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers’ Anderson Tejeda (71) and Elvis Andrus, right, celebrate after Andrus hit a solo home run off Los Angeles Angels’ Andrew Heaney during the second inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout hits a single during the first inning of the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels left fielder Justin Upton reaches up to catch a fly ball hit by Texas Rangers’ Nick Solak during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers starting pitcher Lance Lynn covers first after taking the toss from first baseman Ronald Guzman, rear, on a ground out by Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, left, in the third inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels second baseman Matt Thaiss throws to first for the out on a grounder by Texas Rangers’ Jose Trevino during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers second baseman Anderson Tejeda, top, throws to first to complete the double play on Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi after getting the force on Taylor Ward, bottom, in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Justin Upton receives assistance from a member of the staff after being hit by a pitch thrown by Texas Rangers’ Lance Lynn during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Upton left the game. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani takes a lead form third as Texas Rangers starter Lance Lynn prepares to pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers’ Nick Solak hits a single off Los Angeles Angels’ Andrew Heaney during the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Los Angeles Angels’ Jared Walsh is congratulated by manager Joe Maddon, right, and others in the dugout after Walsh hit a solo home run against the Texas Rangers during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

“That was probably one of the easier plays he had to make,” Maddon said. “He just didn’t get in front of it, tried to backhand it and it crawled up his arm. It’s a mistake he could have made at first or third base. That wasn’t the residue of playing second. He just didn’t get in the right position, and that was it.”

The Angels also saw Justin Upton, one of their hottest hitters, leave the game after being hit in the left hand by a pitch. X-rays were negative, and Upton is day to day.

The loss ended the Angels’ five-game winning streak at a time when they need to win just about every day if they are to make a miracle run to the postseason.

They still may have lost even without Thaiss’ error, because they scored just one run in seven innings against Lance Lynn, but at the time it turned a 1-0 deficit into a 3-0 deficit in the fourth.

“I just flat out missed it,” said Thaiss, who also went hitless in four at-bats. “I think that was a play that kind of dictated the way the rest of the game went and that kind of momentum went down the drain there.”

Andrew Heaney had allowed just an Elvis Andrus homer through the first three innings. He gave up a pair of singles to start the inning, but he got a groundout and a strikeout to get an out away from a clean escape.

Ronald Guzman hit a grounder to the right of Thaiss, who got in position and tried to backhand it, but it popped off his glove and into center field as two runs scored.

Prior to that, Thaiss had handled three previous routine plays. He also made a good attempt at a play over the middle in the first inning, although he didn’t have time to throw out Isiah Kiner-Falefa at first.

Before the game, Maddon said that he wanted to take a chance on Thaiss, who is normally a first baseman or third baseman, just because he liked the way he had been swinging the bat at Long Beach, where the Angels reserves are training. Thaiss was promoted when infielder Franklin Barreto was placed on the injured list with a shoulder sublaxtion. He was hurt on a head-first slide on Sunday.

The Angels also have infielder David Fletcher out with a sprained ankle. He could be back as soon as Thursday.

Luis Rengifo suffered a wrist injury on Saturday, and was scratched from Sunday’s lineup, but Rengifo managed to play the end of Sunday’s game after Barreto was hurt. Maddon insisted before Tuesday’s game that Rengifo was available to play, and he planned to use him later in the game, presumably for defense if the Angels got a lead.

If Rengifo was able to play defense, but not hit, Maddon likely would not have wanted to disclose that to the Rangers, though.

Thaiss said he was “a little shocked” when he found out he was playing second. He said he had been taking ground balls “everywhere” in Long Beach, and he felt he should have been fine at second.

“Obviously my comfort level is not there, but we as an organization take pride in having guys be able to play everywhere,” he said, “so that’s something I’ve got to learn to do.”

While the Angels’ decision to use Thaiss didn’t work, there were other reasons that they lost.

Heaney gave up two more runs in the fifth, after issuing a leadoff walk and allowing a single. Hansel Robles gave up a run in the sixth and Jacob Barnes allowed one in the eighth.

“If I pitch a little bit better, maybe keeps us in the game longer and maybe maybe we make something happen late,” Heaney said. “That didn’t happen tonight. All we can do is come out tomorrow.”

The Angels, meanwhile, managed only a Jared Walsh homer in seven innings against Lynn. They left two runners in the first and fourth innings, the latter when they wasted runners at the corners with one out after Max Stassi hit into a double play.

Maddon chose to attribute the loss more to their lack off offense than Thaiss’ error.

“Every team that you watch play baseball tonight, somebody is going to make a mistake defensively that’s going to cost their team some runs,” Maddon said. “You got to be able to fight through it. We weren’t able to do that and primarily because Lynn. He’s really good.”