Last night, the Angels saw their season high eight-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the New York Yankees. But even in defeat, there was something there that wasn’t around just a month ago: hope. At one point in the game, the Yankees jumped out to a 5-1 lead. In April, a 5-1 deficit would have turned into a 10-2 loss for the Angels, but last night they rallied to tie the game at 5-5, and were in a position to win again in walk-off fashion. The team, the crowd, and Halos fans everywhere believed that this team had a legitimate shot at pulling the game out. It didn’t work out this time, but the attitude and energy of this club is completely different than it was during that terrible April, and it could be the sign this turnaround is here to stay.
April was the worst start to the season that Arte Moreno and the Angels could have possibly imagined. Albert Pujols couldn’t hit, Ervin Santana would not stop giving up home runs, the bullpen hated Dan Haren, and the entire Angels offense seemed to consist of guys looking around wondering who was going to get a hit rather than just getting a hit themselves. The team stumbled out of the gate, losing series after series to the likes of Kansas City, Minnesota, and Oakland. They languished in the cellar of the AL West, unable to make up ground on the Mariners or A’s and finished the month with a dreadful 8-15 record. Something needed to change or Halos fans were going to be in for a looong summer.
Then May rolled around and things did start to change. The Angels started beating teams they were supposed to beat, Pujols finally hit a couple balls out of the park, the bullpen became one of the surest things in baseball, and the offense finally picked up the pace. After languishing near the bottom of the AL in offense for more than a month, the team finally became a legitimate threat against opposing pitching. The team finished 18-11 in May, one win shy of matching their best May in franchise history, and matched their longest win streak since 2008.
Now, eight games in May isn’t going to make this team’s season. But the streak did poke the Angels back above .500 for the first time since Opening Day and cut the Rangers division lead down to 5.5 games, the smallest it’s been since April 17. This team was supposed to be good, and they’re finally starting to play like they are. They’ve picked their game up at just the right time, too, with summer about to officially begin and more fans looking to come out to a ball game, which should help alleviate their attendance woes. They’ve also gotten rolling just in time to welcome the division leading Rangers to town starting Friday. A sweep, or even just two of three, from Texas makes this AL West race an actual race once again.
All good things must come to an end, as the Angels winning streak did on Wednesday, but this team has gained something that one loss can’t take away: momentum. The Rangers look vulnerable after surrendering three touchdowns to Seattle last night (that’s what they get for playing the Seahawks, I suppose), and some positive bounces for this Halos club have put them in a spot to get this season back on the track it was supposed to start off on. They may have taken a month-long detour to get there, but if they can keep playing at this level it will have been worth the wait.