The LA Angels are getting with the times as they employed the popular trend of using a reliever as a starter AKA, an opener, in order to help set up a starter.
The LA Angels have been reeling losing six games in a row over the past week and looking for something to help them gain an edge on the first-place Seattle Mariners. So the Angels decided to employ the opener strategy that the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s employed to perfection last season which helped both teams overachieve and stay in the playoff race throughout the season.
The idea behind the strategy is to use one of your better relievers in the first inning against the top part of the opponents’ order which would take pressure off a starting and also minimize the amount of times that starter has to face the top part of the line-up.
- Hansel Robles was used as the opener on Sunday and retired the Mariners in order allowing original starter Jaime Barria to come in and pitch five strong innings in “relief” of Robles. Barria only allowed one run on four hits with three strikeouts. Will it always work this way every time. No, there will be a situation where the opener could give up some runs and put the team in an early hole, but that is the risk you take.
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While Robles and Barria limited the Mariners to only one run in six innings the Angels offense got it together. The Angels used the long ball as catcher Kevan Smith hit a two-run homer in the 2nd and then the now “powerful” Tommy La Stella hit a home run in the 4th. Brian Goodwin joined the power company smacking his 3rd home run of the season to make it 4-1.
After Ty Buttrey escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning the Angels tacked on two more insurance runs on an RBI-single by Justin Bour and an RBI-double by Andrelton Simmons to make it 6-1 Angels. Tommy La Stella then hit his sixth home run of the season tying a career-high for a season and it is only April. This brought the score to 8-1.
These extra runs ended up proving valuable as the Angels bullpen nearly blew the 7-run lead by giving up three home runs making it 8-6 before Luis Garcia could record the final out to get his first save of the season clinching an 8-6 victory.
The only thing that was concerning was Noe Ramirez giving up four runs in the ninth and Cody Allen again struggling. Allen faced two batters giving up a two-run homer to Mitch Haniger and then walking Domingo Santana before Ausmus removed Allen in favor of Luis Garcia.
Allen has given up four runs in one inning of work against Seattle in three outings. Twice Allen has not recorded outs and was saddled with two losses in the first two games of the series. This is not a time to panic, but Allen needs to get right for the Angels to be successful this season.
However, the most important thing to take away is the Angels six-game losing streak is over and the opener strategy was executed to perfection.
When will the Angels employ the opener strategy again? It could be used to help jump-start a struggling starter like Chris Stratton this Tuesday against the Yankees or even on Wednesday when Felix Pena is scheduled to take the mound. We will see if Angels manager Brad Ausmus will agree with me.