Just under two weeks ago, the Angels season was in question, many people wondering if the team was going to be sellers at the deadline and move critical pieces like Shohei Ohtani. Since losing three out of four games in Houston a few weekends back, the Angels have now won 9 out of their last 11, including three out of four games in Texas against the division leading Rangers. Going into this weekends series against the Royals the Angels are now just 4.5 games behind the Rangers for the division lead and one game back from a wild card spot. Thursday’s win was encapsulated by the Angels tenacity and togetherness, the two driving factors behind the team’s stellar play as of late. With key players on the IL entering Thursday’s contest, other guys stepped up including Mickey Moniak, Jared Walsh, and Jacob Webb to help secure the win and series victory.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Ohtani showcases his two-way dominance
Shohei Ohtani threw 30 pitches in the first inning, but managed to get enough outs early in at bats later on to get through 6 innings and finish with a quality start. Ohtani’s pitching hasn’t been as dominant as it was last season, but for him to not be missing bats (which is his strong-suit) and still find a way to get a quality start was already extremely impressive and an excellent sign moving forward. If his 6 innings of 2-run ball wasn’t enough, add in his massive two-run home run in the bottom of the 7th inning that provided enough insurance for the Angels to win the game and it was another Shohei two-way masterclass.
Ohtani now has 10 home runs since May 30th, 6 of which have come in the last 7 games, and has hit .500 with 13 extra base hits over his last 12 games. Ohtani now boasts the only 1,000+ OPS in the MLB, has 22 home runs, 54 RBI’s, and 10 stolen bases as well. Despite him not being as sharp on the mound recently, Ohtani’s bat alone could win him the MVP if he continues to hit like this, but I just have a feeling one of Shohei’s vintage dominant pitching performances is on the horizon.
Angels show tenacity with guys stepping up despite multitude of injuries
This win was not entirely because of Ohtani, as the Angels showed tenacity yet again in the midst of a lack of depth. Entering Thursday night’s contest, it was confirmed that shortstop Zach Neto would be going on the IL with an oblique strain, Brandon Drury was set to serve his one-game suspension, and David Fletcher could not be brought up due to him being on the bereavement list with a family emergency. During Thursday’s contest, the injury bug continued as Anthony Rendon was hit by a pitch on the wrist and Gio Urshela hurt both of his hips running hard through first base, but both had to stay in the game due to no infielder replacements.
Even with both of them being hurt (especially Rendon who simply couldn’t swing a bat) Jared Walsh stepped up and made a few great defensive plays and had a key double that led to a Mickey Moniak RBI single, and Moniak himself had another clutch hit with the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the 6th inning. Catcher Chad Wallach also contributed, hitting his second home run of the series on Thursday night and becoming the first Angels Catcher since Jonathan Lucroy in 2019 to have 6 or more home runs before the All-Star break, which is an even more impressive feat considering Matt Thaiss has been splitting time with him behind the plate. Both Rendon and Urshela will likely end up on the IL with Neto tomorrow and the Angels will need to continue to find ways to win with everyone contributing.
Jacob Webb proves he’s one of the most reliable arms in the pen
Jacob Webb has had his ups and downs (mostly ups though) so far this season and many Angels fans wondered why he was warming up instead of Sam Bachman when closer Carlos Estevez struggled with control in the bottom of the 9th. Webb was called upon to fix Estevez’s mess after the dominant closer walked the first three guys of the inning and had 0 outs, and did not disappoint.
Webb got leadoff hitter Ezequiel Duran (who entered the game for the ejected Marcus Semien) to foul out to first, Corey Seager to line out to second, before giving up a walk to make the game 5-3. But then Webb bounced back and struck out Adolis Garcia on a 94 MPH high fastball to end the game and give the Angels arguably their biggest victory of the year. Webb had struggled with control in previous outings, but went after hitters consistently and showed a lot of moxie when his name was called upon to fix Estevez’s mess. Now yet another arm in the bullpen can be trusted in a bullpen that just keeps on getting deeper.
The Angels now head to Kansas City to play the Royals in a three game series that starts Friday. Patrick Sandoval and Brady Singer are set to be the starting pitchers and first pitch is scheduled for 5:10 PST Friday.