LA Angels first game with full line-up pays dividends in victory
By David Rice
The LA Angels got good news on Thursday afternoon. Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was ready to play. Simmons is the last piece to the puzzle for the Angels.
When LA Angels general manager Billy Eppler and manager Brad Ausmus envisioned their starting line-up for the 2019 season during the Spring they were both probably salvaging with a line-up that featured Shohei Ohtani, Andrelton Simmons, Justin Upton, and of course Mike Trout just to name a few.
However, injuries took Ohtani, Upton, and Simmons away for parts of the season and the Angels struggled to stay afloat during that time. However on Thursday night the gang was all back together for the first time all season and starting pitcher Griffin Canning was the beneficiary.
After Canning gave up a solo home run to Ramon Laureano in the second the Angels came roaring back with seven straight runs highlighted by two-run homers by Kole Calhoun and Shohei Ohtani that gave Canning a 7-1 cushion. The rookie did the rest limiting the Oakland A’s to just three hits and two runs in six innings to earn his third victory of he season as the Angels beat the A’s 8-3.
Every Angel in the line-up had a hit in the game and Angel manager Brad Ausmus says that is a nice luxury to have the whole line-up back healthy. Ausmus also talked about Canning’s strong performance.
“Griffin struggled with his command early, but he pitched well as the game went on, he seemed to get stronger,” Angel manager Brad Ausmus said. “It nice when you have a line-up with La Stella, Trout, and Ohtani then Upton and Calhoun. You could continue all the way down. There is no break in the line-up so pitchers have to continue to grind, because if they make a mistake like with Ohtani he can hot it over the wall.”
With the Angels trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning Justin Upton reached on an infield single and Kole Calhoun came up and smashed his 17th home run of the season to center to erase the deficit. An inning later Tommy La Stella singled to lead-off the inning and then Ohtani hit the 2-1 pitch from Tanner Anderson over the all in left-center for his 10th home run of the season (7th in his last 18 games) to make it 4-1.
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Albert Pujols drove in thee fifth run of the game on a broken-bat single to center and two batters later Luis Rengifo capped the five-run outburst with a solid single to center to plate two more runs. Canning gave one back on a Matt Olson solo homer in the fourth, but then he settled down and retired eight of the final nine hitters he faced before turning it over to the Angel bullpen who held the A’s to just one run to clinch the victory.
“It’s good to get everyone back and have everyone on the field at the same time and that will help us,” Ausmus said. “Our bullpen has been one of the biggest strengths of our team. I’m not afraid to go them even early in close ga,es.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle was the fact that for the second time in three games we saw some aggressive base running from the Angels. On Monday night Tommy La Stella used his speed to get an inside-the-park home run and then later Wilfredo Tovar scored from second on a sacrifice fly.
On Thursday Justin Upton went from first to third on a wild pitch and would later score on an Albert Pujols single. Then Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols would both tag up on a fly ball near the right field foul line to get into scoring position allowing Rengifo to drive them both in with a two-run single. Ausmus likes the aggressiveness.
“We really want to take advantage of the opportunities to take the extra base. We don’t want to necessarily always force the issue. We want to let the hitters make the outs at the plate so we can keep hitting,” Ausmus said. “In those cases I agree with their decisions. Either the players or in Tovar’s case that was (Mike) Gallego that sent him. We took advantage of our opportunities.”
Overall it has been fun to watch the Angels coming together as of late. They have won 20 of their last 32 games which is the second-best record in the AL during that period next to the Yankees.
This is the first of 11 straight games against division teams before the All-Star Break and the three teams they will play Oakland, Texas, and Houston are all ahead of the Angels in the standings High makes the even more important. Let’s hope the Angels can extend their win streak to five on Friday night.
“Offensively its nice to get the full roster back. This is what was ideal going into the season and what we were planning on having,” Kole Calhoun said. “We’re getting it a little late, but were two games over .500 now, we can make a little run. We are right in the thick of things.It’s definitely nice to get everybody back right now.”