This past week started with the Los Angeles Angels announcing that shortstop Andrelton Simmons would head to the DL with a grade two ankle sprain.It finished with an announcement of Shohei Ohtani having a grade two UCL sprain which may require season-ending surgery.
So as it has been the past two seasons for the Los Angeles Angels the injury bug is biting them hard in 2018. Simmons has been one of the most consistent players on the team this season both in the field and at the plate. Ohtani has made a huge impact both on the mound and at the plate.
Losing both of these players for an extended period of time is a huge blow to the team. Simmons is hoping to be back in two weeks, but realistically he may not return until close to an All-Star Break. Luckily the Angels have Zack Cozart who can fill in at shortstop for him, but the Angels do lose some offensively.
As for Ohtani, it will be much tougher to replace him both in the line-up and on the mound. Ohtani gives the Angels a left-handed bat with some power which the Angels so desperately have needed.
Ohtani hit six home runs with 20 RBIs with a .289 batting average. He has an OBP of .372 and a slugging percentage of .535 in 114 at-bats. On the mound Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in 49.1 innings pitched with 61 strikeouts and 20 walks. Ohtani has a 1.14 WHIP and a .202 opponents batting average.
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The Angels rotation has been solid over the past month with all but Nick Tropeano having an ERA under 4.00, but it will be a blow for sure. Ohtani may be able to come back if his UCL shows some healing after have platelet-rich injections. He also could come back just as a designated hitter and not pitch.
Ohtani will be re-evaluated in three weeks to see where he is and determine a plan for him for the rest of the season, or if he can even entertain options of coming back.
So with all of this going on what do the Angels do: Go on a six-game winning streak and climb back into contention in the AL West race. The Angels have won each of their past three series including a sweep of the Kansas City Royals. Despite losing today the Angels are 7-3 in their last 10 games and will now head to Seattle to take on the first place Mariners. Hopefully th team will be able to cut into Seattle’s division-lead over the Angels of 4.5 games.
How have the Angels been able to play so well with the absence of both Ohtani and Simmons. One Word: Pitching. Well more specifically starting pitching. In the last 10 games Angel starters have given up two runs or less in eight of those 10 games. This includes four times where an Angel pitcher went at least seven innings.
The hitting has been just good enough for the Angels to win games where they only scored four runs or less five times. The hitters did come up big in last Monday’s victory over the Royals rallying the Angels from a four-run deficit to win 9-6.
Another key component has been the emergence of closer Blake Parker. Parker converted all four save opportunities this week which is much better than the 12 save opportunities the Angels blew coming into the month of June. They have only blown one save so far this month.
The only thing people will say is that the Angels were playing three of the worst teams in the AL during this stretch in Texas, Kansas City, and Minnesota. While this may be true, one can take solace in knowing the Angels took care of business when they needed to.
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Hopefully this continued strong play with continue this week in Seattle and beyond. We will see.