Angels, Marlins look for better outings from starters Patrick Sandoval, A.J. Puk

Two left-handers with soaring ERAs are set to face each other in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale between the Los Angeles Angels and the host Miami Marlins.

A.J. Puk (0-1, 18.00 ERA) starts for Miami. Patrick Sandoval (0-1, 16.20) gets the ball for the Angels, who will be looking for their fourth straight win.

Miami, meanwhile, is 0-6 — the worst start in franchise history.

“It’s a process,” Marlins shortstop Tim Anderson said of the losing streak. “I think everybody has been (through slumps) at some point in their career. It’s about how you answer.”

Puk, a former Oakland A’s first-round pick out of the University of Florida, made his MLB debut in 2019 as a reliever. In fact, his first 142 major-league appearances were out of the bullpen.

This year, with the Marlins down four starting pitchers — Sandy Alcantara, Eury Perez, Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett — Puk returned to his earlier career as a member of a rotation.

But in two innings against the Pirates last week, Puk allowed three hits, six walks and four runs. He struck out just one batter.

Not that Puk’s confidence has been shaken.

“That’s the nice thing about having experience as a reliever,” Puk said. “If you have a bad outing, you can just flush it. This is not going to affect me mentally.”

Puk, who turns 29 later this month, is 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA in eight career appearances against the Angels.

With a team-high 15 saves last year, Puk could easily return to the bullpen once Perez, Cabrera and/or Garrett get healthy. (Alcantara is out for the year.)

Marlins manager Skip Schumaker, though, is confident in Puk as a starter.

“A.J. is going to be fine,” Schumaker said. “It’s just one start. It was uncharacteristic of him.”

Indeed, Puk’s career ERA is 3.91.

Sandoval, 27, has 85 starts out of 92 career appearances. His career mark is 17-38 with a 3.87 ERA.

But there’s nuance there.

In 2022, Sandoval posted a 2.91 ERA in 27 starts. Last year, news reports indicated that Sandoval lost command of his slider, going 7-13 with a 4.11 ERA.

Sandoval is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA in two career starts vs. the Marlins.

The best news for Sandoval is that center fielder Mike Trout is off to a great start. Trout, an 11-time All-Star, was limited by injuries to just 82 games last year.

However, Trout has three homers in five games, including a gigantic 473-foot blast against the Marlins on Monday. He also hit a 412-foot homer on Monday.

“He’s healthy,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “Those two balls he hit (on Monday), he put a charge into them. That was impressive.”

Trout said he “barreled” his epic dinger, calling it one of the best shots he has ever hit. “I’m just trying to get back to being myself.”

Besides Trout, several Angels hitters are off to good starts, including catcher Logan O’Hoppe, first baseman Nolan Schanuel and left fielder Taylor Ward.

Defensively, Angels shortstop Zach Neto — a Miami native — made a sensational play on Tuesday, robbing Josh Bell of a hit.

“Shortstop is a good player,” Schumaker said of Neto. “He’s going to be a good player for a long time.”

–Field Level Media