Are the Angels Finally Beginning to Spread Their Wings?

Baseball fans might be witnessing the birth of something special. Last Monday, the Los Angeles Angels hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in what was the first of a 3-game series between two American League contenders. In the bottom of the sixth with the Angels leading 3–1, none other than their longtime superstar outfielder Mike Trout hit a 2-run bomb while also setting a team record in the process. Trout’s homer was his 161st at Angel Stadium, surpassing Tim Salmon’s previous franchise record of 160. 

It was a special sight for Trout and Angels fans in attendance, but the party was just getting started. The very next at-bat, two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani hit a home run of his own, making the score 6–1, and in the bottom of the seventh, Ohtani hit his first career grand slam, sending Angels fans and the baseball world into a frenzy. The Halos won Monday’s game 11–3. 

The fireworks did not stop there. On Tuesday, Trout kept his hot-hitting streak alive by finishing the game 3 for 4 with two home runs, but that was not the story of the night. Later on in the bottom of the eighth with the Angels up 8–0, third baseman Anthony Rendon (a righty) jokingly went up to bat left-handed and hit a home run off of Rays outfielder Brett Phillips, yet that still wasn’t the story of the night. The biggest headline was rookie left-hander Reid Detmers, who went the distance pitching a no-hitter in only his eleventh major league start. The southpaw finished Tuesday’s contest with two strikeouts and just one walk, leading the Halos to a dominant 12–0 victory and a series win against the Rays.

Following a close extra-innings loss on Wednesday and a day off on Thursday, the Angels traveled up north to the Bay Area for the weekend where they were hosted by the struggling Oakland Athletics, setting the stage for a 4-game series between two AL West rivals. 

In Friday’s series opener, the Angels pulled out a low-scoring victory at 2–0. This win was largely attributed to a dominant pitching performance by their rookie right-hander Chase Silseth, who pitched six shutout innings with four strikeouts and earned his first career win in what was also his major league debut. On Saturday, the Athletics took the first game of a doubleheader on a 3-run walk-off homer off the bat of outfielder Luis Barrera with 2 outs in the bottom of the ninth, which won the A’s the game 4–3. 

However, the Angels quickly rebounded from the tough loss just a few hours later in the second game of the doubleheader, setting the tone in the top of the second with a grand slam by outfielder Taylor Ward, making the score 5–1 after two. Then adding to the lead, in the top of the fifth inning Shohei Ohtani hit a 2-run bomb, which was his 100th career home run, that made the score 8–1 after five. The Angels won the game 9–1, taking two out of the first three against the Athletics.         

The Halos currently own a 23–13 record and sit comfortably at second place in the AL West division, trailing only the Houston Astros by a slim margin. Although this current MLB season is fairly young, many baseball fans are already getting excited about the possibility of seeing the game’s top two players in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani as teammates in October. The Angels have missed every postseason since 2014, which has not only been crushing for fans of the team, but for all baseball fans. 

Many have wondered how an all-time great talent like Trout has seen so little October baseball, and since the acquisition of Ohtani in 2018, there has been an even greater deal of speculation surrounding Los Angeles’ front office and what exactly they are doing to help their historically great superstars get into the postseason. However, the Angels appear to have made some strong moves this offseason and are off and running early, and thanks to MLB’s new expanded playoff format that consists of three division winners and three wild card teams, the Angels have a great chance of making it as long as they finish the regular season with one of the top three wild card records in the American League.

The question must be asked: Do the Angels have what it takes for October baseball? Based on their play thus far, I would say yes. Perhaps the number one reason for my optimism revolves around their pitching, which is vastly better than what it has been these past few years. Los Angeles’ current team ERA is 3.23, which has them sitting in the top five in all of MLB compared to their 4.69 mark last season, which had them ranked in the bottom third of all MLB teams. With the addition of several young talented arms and Noah Syndergaard, who appears to be finding his old form following a couple of injury-plagued seasons and numerous setbacks caused by Tommy John surgery, the Angels appear to be putting together a solid pitching staff to compliment Ohtani’s brilliance on the mound. Pair their solid pitching with a strong lineup of stars consisting of Ohtani, Trout, Rendon, and pleasant surprise Taylor Ward — currently leading the team in batting average at .384 — there is much to be excited about for this team moving forward.

It looks like the Angels are finally beginning to spread their wings, and any fan of the game of baseball wants to see the Halos’ stars shine bright on the biggest stage in October.

Image courtesy of Scott U & Keith Allison