Phil Nevin did not leave Angel Stadium as he would normally do after Sunday’s game. The Angels manager, who suffered a crushing loss to the Houston Astros, wanted to think.
“I stayed here a little longer last night,” Nevin said. “When I left, there were still a lot of people sitting around. Sometimes it takes that to clean things up and get things out of the system before you leave – knowing you’ll come back with the same attitude, with the same effort, with the same focus [the next] Game.”
The Angels, who showed up at the stadium on Monday, seemed determined to turn that emotional side around.
The players were smiling, they were cheering each other on in their usual pre-game scrum before preparing for the field, a routine they had all season. These angels, who have been preaching all year about sticking together through good times and bad, seemed to stay the course.
“Yesterday is over, today is a new day,” outfielder Mickey Moniak said Monday, adding, “We’ve got the boys; Something will turn around here soon.”
Monday’s result was a 4-3 win in 10 innings over the New York Yankees, a team that has also struggled with star player problems and injuries of late. It was the Angels’ second win in three games, following a 10-1 win that sent the Angels below .500 for the first time since April 24.
Much like Saturday’s extra-inning win, Monday’s game had its own weight. After Sunday’s loss, a loss to the Yankees would have made the emotional recovery even more frustrating.
“After [Sunday]you’re walking off the wrong end today, and that can really knock you down,” Nevin said.
The Angels’ recent two wins have been encouraging and boosted team morale, but they still have strong chances of making the playoffs. At the start of Tuesday’s games, the Angels were nine games ahead of first place in the American League West and 5½ games ahead of a wild card berth. They had an 8.3% chance of making the postseason. according to FanGraphs.
Injuries were certainly a factor for the Angels, but there are other teams that have come through injuries and are still eligible for the playoffs. The Dodgers, for example, have 14 players on their injury list, five of which are starters — including their three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw — and rank first in the National League West.
Among the various inconsistencies they’ve displayed — defensive errors, shallow offense, pitching — the Angels’ starting rotation in particular has stalled lately, putting additional strain on the bullpen.
Even two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who was struggling with a broken fingernail that led to a bladder problem, only got to five innings in his last two starts. Left-hander Tyler Anderson was inefficient, getting picked off after just three innings and 85 pitches in Sunday’s loss to the Astros and throwing just 4 1/3 innings in a July 7 loss to the Dodgers.
Patrick Sandoval had pitched at least five innings in his last five starts prior to his Tuesday night start, and while he held the Padres to two runs in his previous game on July 5, he gave up seven runs to the White Sox on June 29.
On the other hand, despite a 6-2 record, left-hander Reid Detmers’ recent performance offers a taste of what it will take if the Angels are to turn things around. Detmers had four consecutive good starts (three of which were non-decisions) from June 14 through July 2, and in his first start after the All-Star break on Saturday, he pitched six innings and gave up four runs against the Astros. For his part, right-hander Griffin Canning followed suit, catching in the sixth inning Monday night and scoring 12 in the Angels’ eventual win over the Yankees.
Whether the rest of the staff can build on that effort remains to be seen.
“You just have to keep going, keep your head down,” said Detmers. “We have a good club. Sometimes you just have to play better. We need to pitch better and at certain times we need to hit better. It takes a whole team to win. We all have to do our job and at the end of the day we will win a lot more games.”