Going into this pivotal series against the Blue Jays, the Angels were arguably the hottest team in baseball winning 8 out of their last 9 games. On Thursday the Angels put together a masterclass on the back of Shohei Ohtani as he pitched a complete game 1-hitter in game 1, before hitting two home-runs in game 2 of the doubleheader vs. the Tigers. Just a few nights ago the Angels showed the baseball world they are buyers this year with a massive trade for Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, signifying their intention to make a playoff push.
Entering Friday’s matchup the Angels were just 3 games back of the Jays and likely would have secured the 3rd Wild Card spot with a sweep over Toronto this weekend. Well, that already didn’t happen as the Halos bats went cold following another Ohtani home-run in the top of the 1st inning. Giolito made his first start for the Angels and pitched well, but there was virtually no run support and the Jays scored enough runs to cruise to a 4-1 victory. With a record of 54-50, the Angels enter Saturday’s contest now 4 games back of the 3rd Wild Card Spot behind the Jays, Red Sox, and Yankees.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
After early home run, lineup can’t find much magic despite recent success
After Ohtani’s first inning home run that put the Angels up 1-0, the lineup fell cold against one of the best pitchers in the American League in Kevin Gausman who struck out 9 over 6 innings of 1 run ball. Mickey Moniak extended his hit streak to an MLB leading 18 games, but made a base running mistake that cost the Halos early on. Taylor Ward also got a hit, but overall the lineup couldn’t hit on Friday, especially the bottom of the order. Matt Thaiss, Hunter Renfroe, Trey Cabbage, and Andrew Velasquez went a combined 1-11.
In fact, the bottom of the lineup was mostly responsible for the debacle that occurred in the top of the 7th inning when the Angels failed to bring a runner home despite having the bases loaded and 0 outs. Cabbage and Eduardo Escobar (who pinch hit for Velasquez) struck out before Luis Rengifo (who went 0-4 from the leadoff spot) flew out to end the inning. That was the game right there, terrible situational hitting, a huge momentum killer, but it wasn’t the last bases loaded with less than 2 outs opportunity they had in the game. In the top of the 9th inning, the Angels also failed to bring a runner home despite having the bases loaded with just 1 out. The Angels lack of production with runners in scoring position has been evident all year, especially in the absences of Mike Trout, Brandon Drury, and Anthony Rendon, three of the team’s best hitters. If they want to win against good baseball teams, they will simply have to be better with RISP to do so.
Lucas Giolito pitches well in debut
Sure he got the loss, but newly minted Angels starter Lucas Giolito looked solid against one of the best lineups in the American League on Friday. Giolito was cursing early on before giving up a solo home run to Matt Chapman with two strikes and two outs in the bottom of the second inning. The following inning, Giolito gave up another solo home run this time to Danny Jansen as the Jays took a 3-1 lead on the Halos.
After that, Giolito retired 9 straight batters before getting into trouble in the 6th inning where he gave up 2 hits and didn’t get much help on the field with both catcher Matt Thaiss and shortstop Andrew Velasquez making throwing errors. Overall, Giolito finished with 5.2 innings pitched, 3 earned runs, and 0 walks on 73 pitches. Despite the Angels lack of run support, Giolito looked almost as good as advertised in his initial start and should continue to improve as he gets acclimated with his new team.
Shohei Ohtani continued to dazzle despite loss
Shohei Ohtani pitched a complete game 1-hit shutout and hit two homers in the doubleheader yesterday vs the Tigers, and continued to stay hot with his 3rd consecutive at bat with a home run in the first inning of Fridays matchup vs. the Jays. He then hit a single later on and finished the day 2-4, before being pulled out of the game in a crucial situation in the 9th inning due to leg cramps. There is no word on how serious the leg cramps are, and it is important to note that Ohtani also left the second game of Thursday’s doubleheader due to cramps as well. Nonetheless, it had to be bothering him tremendously since he would have had the chance to win the game with the bases loaded and 1 out in the 9th down 4-1.
Nonetheless, Ohtani leads the league in home runs (39) and OPS (1.077) as his stellar second MVP season continues to leave fans speechless. The Angels decided to go all in and buy at the deadline and even though they swept the Tigers (who are one of the worst teams in the American League) Fridays contest against a legitimate playoff team proved they still have a ways to go before becoming contenders. It won’t get any easier with two games to go vs the Jays this weekend before a 3 game series against the best team in baseball, the Atlanta Braves starting Monday.