With the August 1st trade deadline less than a week away, every game is of huge importance to the Los Angeles Angels and the future of Shohei Ohtani. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a 2-RBI double by Mike Moustakas, the Angels didn’t look back…until the 9th inning. Prior to the bottom of the 9th inning, the Halos had been in complete control of the entire game, never surrendering a lead and countering every Tigers run with another of their own. Griffin Canning pitched excellent yet again, Jose Soriano looked dominant in 2 innings of relief, and Matt Moore cruised through the 8th inning. Over that same duration, Eduardo Escobar singled driving in a run, Luis Rengifo tripled driving in another run, and after a variety of other hits the Angels entered the bottom of the 9th inning with a 6-2 lead with one of the best closers in baseball set to throw in the 9th.
After a Rengifo error and Mickey Moniak blunder in the outfield, the Angels found themselves in a tied ballgame after an epic collapse, similar to Royals game on June 17th where they blew an 8-2 lead entering the 7th inning. That game on June 17th had a ripple effect on the next month of baseball as the Halos lost a ton of momentum despite entering the matchup 8 games over .500. Tuesday’s game felt similar, a game if they had lost would have been a devastating blow to their playoff chances and very well could have cost them the season. However, despite the collapse, the Angels found a way to win in the 10th inning behind an RBI double from Moniak and a shutdown relief pitching performance from Aaron Loup.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
Moniak extends hit streak to 15 games
Mickey Moniak has been a godsend for the Angels with the multitude of injuries they have. He’s hitting .333 with 11 home runs and an ops of .978 in 174 At Bats, and he entered Tuesday’s game on a 14 game hitting streak. With a single off of LHP Eduardo Rodriguez in the top of the 4th inning, he extended his streak to an MLB-leading 15 games and is a big reason why the Angels have even stayed in the playoff race despite a tumultuous last few months riddled with injuries. Moniak was primarily used against RHP’s earlier in the year, but has started to hit LHP’s as of late, containing to raise his value as one of the teams best players.
However In the bottom of the 9th after Rengifo made an error and Carlos Estevez surrendered 3 hits, Moniak made a defensive miscue. With 2 outs in a 6-4 game, Spencer Torkelson hit a long fly ball to the warning track that Moniak very well should have caught, but it dropped through his glove then bounced and went over the fence for a two run ground rule double to tie the game 6-6. Moniak was visibly frustrated after the play, but the Angels got an out to send it to extra innings despite blowing a 4 run lead in the ninth. In the top of the 10th Moniak redeemed himself, as he’s done all year so far, hitting what ended up being the game winning RBI double to put the Angels ahead 7-6. Furthermore, Moniak has become the heart and soul of this team, and as good as he’s hitting the baseball he can’t have costly mistakes like that in the field if the Angels want to stay in the playoff race.
Estevez struggles mightily in 9th inning regardless of the team’s errors
If you look at the box score, it will say Carlos Estevez didn’t give up any earned runs, but regardless of the Rengifo error and Moniak outfield blunder, Estevez was far from sharp. He gave up 4 hits in just 1 inning of work and entered in a non save situation when it was 6-2. On the season, Estevez has been remarkable for the Angels with 23 saves and a 1.98 ERA over 41 innings pitched this season.
He also has yet to blow a save attempt (considering even after blowing the lead on Tuesday, it was still 6-6 entering the 10th and Estevez did not record a loss). This was a game the Angels really needed to win and the team morale and confidence would have been much higher entering tomorrow had they not collapsed in the 9th inning. Nonetheless, the team found a way to win in extra innings, but Estevez cannot get away with 4 hit innings as a playoff contenders closer, and there is no room for error as the Angels need every game they can get.
Aaron Loup saves the day
Aaron Loup has had a mostly disappointing tenure with the Angels to say the least. Following a career year with the Mets in 2021 where he had a 0.95 ERA in 56.2 innings, the Angels gave Loup a 2-year $17 million dollar deal and he hadn’t been living up to the hype…until a few weeks ago. It is important to note that there were numerous games last season where Loup blew leads in high leverage situations, and he even had his fair share of blown opportunities in April and May of this season as well. This year’s issues were mostly on the road to begin with as Loup boasts an ERA under 2.00 at Angel stadium this season, but as of late he’s been fantastic regardless of where he’s played. Loup has not allowed a run in his last 5 appearances and 10 out of his last 12 appearances overall.
Another thing that cannot go unnoticed is the moxie it takes to be able to come into an extra innings situation with a ghost runner on and get 3 consecutive outs without letting that runner get to even third base. When the Angels needed him most, Loup stepped up and delivered in a big moment. Besides Moore and Estevez, most of this season the Angels have been relying on whichever relievers were hot at the moment to put in other high leverage situations. At one point, the team’s go to guy was Jacob Webb, who was a big part of the Angels 3 wins in Texas in mid-June. However, with Webb struggling now and the ultra reliable Sam Bachman on the IL, Loup has gotten more opportunities and has made the most of them.
The Angels are now 52-49 and 3.5 games back from the 3rd Wild Card spot entering Wednesday’s game vs. the Tigers. Patrick Sandoval is set to pitch against former Angel Michael Lorenzen with first pitch scheduled for 3:40 PM PST.