Last season the Los Angeles Angels were ravaged throughout the season by injuries. This season it has been more of the same, however, the Angels are finding more ways to win close games and it starts with doing the little things.
Despite the fact that the Los Angeles Angels are sitting just under .500 again at 17-18, the team has shown some good signs that bode well for the future this season.
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First and foremost they have shown the ability to comeback from multiple run deficits even in the late innings. They have also shown the ability to win close games which was a major issue last season. The Angels are 9-7 in one-run games after going 17-20 last season. They have also won four extra inning games after not winning any all of last season. In addition the Angels have five walk-off wins so far this season.
2017 Angels Have Heart
So what has been different this season that has led to the improved play. The answer is one word: heart. This group has a lot of heart. Like I mentioned before this team seems to never be out of any games as they have out scored opponents in late innings by nearly a three to one ratio.
The Machine has been coming through in the clutch
While Albert Pujols may not be off to a spectacular start, he has come through on more than a few occasions this season.
Early in the season he was a big part in two major Angel rallies. First against Seattle as he hit a solo home run to start a miraculous seven-run ninth inning rally and later in the inning hit a two-run single that tied the game at 9. In the next game, Pujols hit another game-tying single in the 9th inning that tied the game at six capping a three-run 9th inning rally.
Angels have a much improved defense.
Angels general manager Billy Eppler did not have a large budget to fill multiple holes in the Angels line-up, but he spent the money wisely improving the team’s defense. Danny Espinosa, Martin Maldonado, Cameron Maybin, and Ben Revere have all made a difference defensively for the Angels even though they have all struggled at the plate.
Espinosa has combined with Andrelton Simmons to form a great middle infield defensively. Maybin and Revere have both made some highlight reel plays in left and Maybin has also has now played the last week in in centerfield with Mike Trout dealing with an injured hamstring. Finally, Maldonado has been outstanding behind the plate both with his arm and his pitching calling.
The bullpen has a lot of depth and has been performing very well.
The numbers may not look super-impressive, but compared to 2016 a 9-7 record with a 4.32 ERA is a marked improvement. The Angels have nine saves in 12 opportunities. Even with all three closers on their staff on the disabled list. Andrew Bailey, Huston Street, and Cam Bedrosian all have been out since mid-April or earlier. Journeyman Bud Norris has stepped up converting five of seven saves opportunities.
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In addition to Norris, surprise rookie Blake Parker has been great as a set-up man as has newly acquired reliever David Hernandez. Parker is 0-2 with a 4.02 ERA striking out 25 batters in 15.2 innings while holding batters to a .222 batting average. If not for one bad outing where he gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning versus Seattle, Parker’s ERA would be a sparkling 2.40.
Hernandez on the other hand has pitched in eight games so far for the Angels and has given up only one run in 7.2 inning of work sporting a 1.17 ERA holding opponents to a .167 batting average and he has a 0.52 WHIP. Jose Alvarez has also pitched well as the lefty-specialist pitching 11.2 innings with a 2.31 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP.
Once Bailey and Bedrosian come back, the bullpen will be even stronger.
Angels are playing smart, but aggressive baseball.
Under Mike Scioscia the Angels have always tried to play aggressively and manufacture runs by going first-to-third and moving the runners over. However, I have noticed the little things this year that the team has been doing. Twice I have noticed Albert Pujols stealing a big base that have proved to be a key to an Angels victory.
Pujols stole third with one out in the 11th inning. That led to the Angels scoring an insurance run in a 6-4 victory. Again on Saturday night against Houston with runners at first and third and one out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied. Pujols saw the infield playing in so he took off for second and Simmons hit a chopper which the Astros’ Carlos Correa fielded, but he had only one choice which was to try and throw out Kole Calhoun, who was streaking down the line and easily beat the throw home capping 2-1 walk-off victory.
It isn’t just Pujols as other players have made big plays too. Cliff Pennington hit an RBI-double to cap the seven-run 9th inning comeback against Seattle back in April. Carlos Perez also laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Maybin from third for a walk-off victory over Texas.
All in all, the Angels are finding ways to win despite injuries to their two top pitchers, three closers, and now most recently Mike Trout. If this team can get healthy and stay healthy the sky’s the limit. We will have to wait and see what happens.