ANAHEIM, Calif. — After blowing a 7-3 lead in the 8th inning against the Astros on Sunday, which was by far the worst loss of the Angels season, they redeemed themselves on Monday night by clawing away against the Yankees until they could come out on top in extra innings. It was far from perfect, as the Angels bullpen still struggled (Jimmy Herget and Gerardo Reyes gave up runs) and a lineup that had produced a combined 21 runs over two games suddenly got a bit cold. However, guys like Aaron Loup (who struck out two Yankees in the top of the 10th to strand the ghost runner who started on second base) and Michael Stefanic (who pinch hit and produced a walk-off single in the 10th) stepped up when the Angels needed them most and they came out on top.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
Griffin Canning throws a gem
Over the last 13 games, Angels pitchers haven’t pitched well to say the least, accumulating a league worst 7.88 ERA and Griffin Canning was certainly a part of that stretch. Ever since Canning gave up a Grand-Slam to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. of the Diamondbacks on June 30th, he hasn’t pitched the same and that was evident in his only July start before the All-Star break where he gave up 4 earned runs in just 2.2 innings pitched against the Dodgers. Canning had an excellent stretch of pitching performances from May 23rd up until June 30th where he boasted five quality starts in just six appearances. That was when the Angels were on a run and were still hovering around the 2nd Wild Card position…oh how times have changed in just a matter of weeks.
However on Monday night Canning looked like he had found his groove again, striking out a career high 12 batters in just 5.2 innings pitched. It wasn’t easy to accomplish that feat as Canning gave up 6 hits and 3 walks in the outing and a lot of times struggled with control and putting away hitters. Canning had 101 pitches after 5 innings, but because of the Angels limited bullpen arms available, Angels Manager Phil Nevin chose to send him out there for the 6th inning despite the high pitch count and he ended up with 120 pitches. Angels reliever Jimmy Herget (who was called up from AAA Salt Lake City on Monday) gave up two inherited runs from Canning despite coming into the game needing just one out. Nonetheless, all of Canning’s pitches were working as his stuff was the best its ever looked. If he can continue to miss bats like he did on Monday night, the Angels may have a reliable starting pitcher over the next few weeks.
Shohei Ohtani continues to marvel, this time with an epic bat flip
Another day, another Shohei Ohtani masterclass. Ohtani singled and doubled in earlier innings before hitting a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning to get the Angels back in the game. Ohtani showed more emotion than he usually does on the homer, with a passionate bat flip immediately after launching the baseball over the center field fence. It was Ohtani’s 35th home run of the year and he has hit a home run in the 7th inning or later in 3 consecutive games. Ohtani is now hitting .306 with 35 home runs, 75 RBI’s, and an OPS of 1.068. On the mound Ohtani still has 139 strikeouts in 105.1 innings pitched, but his ERA has increased to 3.50 following a few lackluster starts.
A lot is being made of where Ohtani could be traded by August 1st’s trade deadline, since many people don’t believe the Angels will make the playoffs. As of right now the Halos are one game under .500 and will have to go on a huge run at some point soon to make the playoffs. However, it is almost impossible to trade a player in the midst of the greatest season in MLB history. Ohtani’s 2nd unanimous MVP award has already been locked up and the Angels may bank on the slim chance they have to re-sign the generational talent in the offseason rather than trading him and having no chance at all to sign him back.
Aaron Loup saves the day in the 10th
Aaron Loup has had an abysmal stint with the Angels over the last two years. In 2022 he finished with an an ERA of 3.84 in 58.2 innings pitched, and in 2023 he’s been even worse with an ERA of 5.19 in 26 innings pitched. The Angels signed Loup to a 2-year $17 million dollar contract following a career year on the Mets where he had an ERA of 0.95 in 56.2 innings pitched in 2021, and he simply hasn’t been the same pitcher since. Loup was a high leverage reliever for the Angels last season, but this year hasn’t been put in many of those situations as his trust with Nevin has waned.
However, on Monday night he was the last guy available in the pen to throw in the 10th inning and made the most of the opportunity. Despite coming into the game with the extra innings ghost runner on second base, Loup got Anthony Rizzo to ground out to first base (where the runner then advanced to third base). With one out and a guy on third, Loup found a way to strike out both Harison Bader and Anthony Volpe to leave the runner stranded on third base. For a guy that has struggled as much as Loup, perhaps this successful performance in a high-leverage situation will give him some momentum moving forward.
The Angels will play the second game of the three game series against the Yankees on Tuesday night with Patrick Sandoval set to pitch against Domingo German. First pitch is scheduled for 6:38 p.m. PT.