The last seven days have been a whirlwind for the Angels as they swept the Red Sox, then got swept by the Marlins, then took 2 out of 3 games against the White Sox. That has been the story of this season so far, at times looking dominant and one of the best teams in baseball, and at other times looking weak against below .500 teams. They were as high as 5 games over .500 before the Marlins series, and enter this weekend’s series against the Astros 3 games over .500 with a 30-27 record.
Here are my three takeaways from the game:
Ohtani and Trout are getting hot
Shohei Ohtani crushed a home run in Tuesday night’s game against the White Sox, but not much else happened for the Angels last night. However, after losing 10-3 the Angels bounced back and walloped the White Sox today behind Shohei Ohtani’s 2 home runs and 4 RBI’s. Ohtani was in such a zone after those two home runs that he didn’t get anything to hit and walked the next at bat, before Chad Wallach (who also hit a home run in his lone at-bat) came in to pinch hit for him with the Angels up 12-2.
However, unlike yesterday, more players got in on the action to support the Angels struggling pitching as of late, including Mike Trout, who got the Angels on the board with a 2-run shot in the first inning off Lance Lynn. Lynn hasn’t had a good year, but he was top 3 in Cy Young Voting just a few years ago and the Angels put up 8 hits and 8 runs off of him, an impressive feat nonetheless. Ohtani is now hitting .269 with a team leading 15 home runs and 38 RBI’s to go along with an OPS of .882, while Trout is now hitting .278 with 13 home runs, 31 RBI’s and a team leading OPS of .891.
Bullpen Issues continue to plague the team as of late
Despite Jaime Barria‘s impressive 5 innings of 1 run ball, the Angels bullpen fell victim to giving up runs yet again as Tucker Davidson came in and threw 3 innings giving up 7 hits and 4 runs. Now Davidson isn’t a usual arm in the bullpen for the Angels, but it shows the lack of depth they have in Relief Pitchers. One of the best set-up men in the MLB this season, Matt Moore (who had a 1.44 ERA in 25 innings pitched) landed on the IL and the Angels had to bring up flame-throwing RHP Ben Joyce, who is most famously known for his 105 MPH fastball.
Joyce did well in his first outing in Monday night’s win over the White Sox, striking out 2 in 1 inning pitched. It remains to be seen if Joyce can step up and be a reliable force late in games, but other than closer Carlos Estevez (1.50 ERA and 13 saves in 24 innings pitched this season), the injured Moore, and Chris Devenski (2.70 ERA in 16.2 innings pitched this season) the only other reliable relief pitcher the Angels have is Jaime Barria, who is now the 5th in the rotation starter since Jose Suarez went down with an injury. The Angels also called up former first-round pick Sam Bachman, an 100 MPH throwing righty that struggled with location in his first big league appearance. IF the Angels want prolonged success and the ability to beat good teams like the Astros and Rangers in their own division, they need guys to step up in the bullpen.
Mickey Moniak and Taylor Ward are both getting hot
Though they were just battling for the Left Field spot in the Angels lineup, Taylor Ward (who had an excellent 2022 campaign) and former #1 overall pick Mickey Moniak both had 2+ hits on Wednesday afternoon, Ward hitting a single and 2-run homer (he’s now homered in back-to-back games) and Moniak hitting a single and a double. Hunter Renfroe (hitting .248 with 10 homers, 29 RBI’s and an OPS of .744) needed a day off and Ward and Moniak both capitalized to make a decision for playing time moving forward very difficult for the Angels. Last season, Ward hit .281 with 23 home runs, 139 hits and 60 walks establishing himself as a staple in the Angels lineup.
However, this season Ward is hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 31 runs. Moniak had an impressive second half of the season for the Angels after being traded from the Phillies at the deadline, and he has been even better this year now hitting .327 with 4 homers, 7 RBI’s and 16 hits in just 49 at bats. Since Ward and Moniak are both hot right now, perhaps Phil Nevin will give Renfroe more days off and platoon the three players over the course of the week.
The Angels will now travel to Houston to face-off against the Astros in a 4 game series that kicks off tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for Thursday at 5:10 PST.