It’s been a little over a year since the last season for the Angels hit rock bottom, a franchise-record 14-game loss so unexpected and terrible that widely respected manager Joe Maddon was summarily fired.
The June streak gave the Angels four games under .500 and 3.5 games from the last wildcard spot. They never recovered.
Here it is 13 months later and the Angels have lost nine out of 10 games during the All-Star break. They lost 5-10 to the Dodgers on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium after losing 4-11 the day before, dropping them to eighth place in the American League wildcard standings.
Three wildcard spots are at stake, and the Angels are 4.5 games from last place. In other words, they’re worse off than last season after a 14-game losing streak.
The Freeway Series was a free fall for the Halos. The Dodgers hit five home runs in each game, setting the stage for Monday’s Home Run Derby in Seattle.
That’s not to say Angels manager Phil Nevin is close to being fired. Maddon’s front office interference in his decision-making was tolerated while the team won and made him easier to get rid of after 13 games in the losing streak.
While Maddon was clearly smart, Nevin is undoubtedly stoic. Twice a day—before and after each game—Nevin repeats the same message with a square-jawed military man: The Angels have playoff-caliber talent. Injuries will heal. Losing will come to an end.
“I keep telling you I won’t make excuses, but we’re going through a tough time,” he said. “We had two weeks where it was difficult for many reasons. We had some injuries but we just didn’t play well.”
Nevin was the third base coach under Maddon, replacing him after all but one of the 14 straight losses a year ago. Still, he failed to get the Angels back in the running.
Does he think this squad is better equipped to bounce back?
“I know we’re a much better team than last year,” he said. “We’re in a better position… We’re doing a little nice run of what we’re capable of and we’re right back at this deal.”
Nevin caught himself realizing that his choice of words could be misconstrued.
“I’m not saying we’re not in it,” he continued. “We are. We have to play better.”
And hopefully curb the almost daily injuries. Jo Adell was the last player out when he pulled an oblique muscle while batting in the first inning and left the game.
“I took a swing and felt something pull on the left side and knew I probably wouldn’t be able to swing any more, so I was taken out,” he said. “I will know more in the next few days.”
Adell was called up by Triple A on Friday to replace midfielder Mike Trout, who is out for four to eight weeks after breaking his left wrist. Now in limbo along with third baseman Anthony Rendon (deep contusion to his shin) and outfielder Taylor Ward (torn groin), Adell is not on the 14 Angels’ injured list, but he’s not healthy either.
The Angels (45-46) fell below .500 for the first time since they were 11-12 in April. Is this as bad as it gets, or has the past two weeks been an inevitable regression to the mean?
If that’s the case, general manager Perry Minasian could deviate from the acquisition mode and accept trade-date offers for two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who hit his 32nd home run on Saturday.
But first comes the deep breath of a six-day All-Star hiatus. Some injuries should heal. The determination should be renewed. The Angels are in dire need of some downtime ahead of a home game that begins with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees both ahead in the wildcard chase.
Nevin admitted that.
“To be honest, there couldn’t be a better time to get away from that five days,” he said.