Ernesto Frieri and the long ball …

Ernesto FrieriIt’s early — early enough for sample sizes to be very, very deceiving — but Ernesto Frieri‘s home-run rate has more than tripled.

Nats shortstop Ian Desmond led off the ninth inning of a three-run Angels lead on Monday night with a homer to left center — a 462-foot bomb that was the second longest in Nationals Park history — that went for Frieri’s fourth home run allowed in 8 1/3 innings. His home-runs-per-nine-innings rate is now 4.32, after being a relatively high 1.32 from 2012-13 (the Major League average was 0.99 in that span).

But Angels manager Mike Scioscia sees a silver lining.

“I think it’s pretty clear with Ernie that the balls that have been hit out of the park have been mistakes,” Scioscia said. “It’s not like he’s making good pitches and they’re hitting home runs.”

The ball Desmond hit out on Monday was an 0-1 fastball that was supposed to be low and away but ran middle-in. The one Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak hit out on April 2 was an 0-2 fastball that wasn’t quite high enough. The one Corey Hart followed up with immediately thereafter was a 3-2, chest-high fastball — a pitch that was supposed to be low and away. And the one A’s catcher John Jaso crushed to win the game on April 14 was a 1-2 fastball that grooved right down the middle.

“If they’re hitting good pitches, and they’re hitting them out of the park, and it’s where you’re trying to go with pitches,” Scioscia said, “I think you have a lot more work to do than if it’s a matter of you making a few more mistakes than you used to and they haven’t missed them.”

Yes, Frieri (5.40 ERA, 2-for-3 in saves) has missed his location with all four of the homers. But they’ve all come on his go-to fastball, a pitch hitters were supposed to have a harder time squaring up now that he’s added a changeup and slider.

The lineups for the second of a three-game series …

Angels (9-10)

J.B. Shuck, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
David Freese, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Tyler Skaggs, SP

Nationals (11-9)

Denard Span, CF
Danny Espinosa, 2B
Jayson Werth, RF
Anthony Rendon, 3B
Ian Desmond, SS
Bryce Harper, LF
Tyler Moore, 1B
Sandy Leon, C
Taylor Jordan SP


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