With the baseball trade deadline fast approaching the LA Angels are not a definitive buyer or seller. If they become sellers Angel veteran Kole Calhoun could find himself on the move, but not so fast.
On Tuesday night, the LA Angels again challenged their I-5 neighbors the Los Angeles Dodgers for the first of a short two-game series. Just like the first time the two teams played in Anaheim the Angels brought their “A” game making the big plays in the field when they needed to and getting enough key hits to hold off the Dodgers for a 5-4 victory, clinching the season series once again for the third time in the last four seasons.
The day after the emotional Tyler Skaggs Celebration of Life ceremony with Debbie Skaggs and her husband Dan in attendance the Angels put together another masterful performance against the Dodgers. The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the second inning as Shohei Ohtani smacked a pinch-hit RBI-single that scored Luis Rengifo.
In the bottom of the second inning the Dodgers almost tied the game on a single by Corey Seager as Max Muncy tried to score from second on the play, but Mike Trout uncorked a bullet throw home to Dustin Garneau, who tagged Max Muncy out at home to thwart the Dodgers rally.
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The Dodgers did tie it in the bottom of the fourth inning off of Felix Pena, on a sacrifice by Seager that score Cody Bellinger from third, but the Angels would answer right away. Mike Trout smacked his AL-leading 33rd home run of the season, take a guess how far it went. Yep, 454 feet, Tyler Skaggs jersey number both front wards and backwards. What was even more special was that Debbie Skaggs and her husband Dan were at the game sitting behind home plate cheering Trout and the Angels on.
The Angels, who only 24 hours earlier were celebrating the life of Debbie’s son Tyler in a memorial service in nearby Santa Monica, seem to keep pulling off the improbable with their Angel in heaven Tyler Skaggs’ presence among them.
Trout’s home run made it 2-1 Angels, but the were not done in the top of the 5th. First Justin Upton hit a double to left which knocked Kenta Maeda out of the game in favor of left-hander Julio Urias who was brought in to face lefty Kole Calhoun. Calhoun wasted no tie in greeting Urias as he laced an RBI-double down the right field line to make it 3-1 Angels.
What has been amazing for Calhoun this season is the way he has hit left-handed pitching. The Red Baron has 10 if his 22 home runs off of left-handed pitchers and has driven in 19 runs in off of southpaws. This is a far cry from the last two seasons where Calhoun hit a total of eight home runs and drove in 27 run combined, hitting a paltry .212 off of them
Albert Pujols‘ RBI-ground out scored Calhoun and made it 4-1 Angels. Felix Pena pitched fairly well until two outs in the 5th when he walked Alex Verdugo and Justin Turner back-to-back prompting Angels manager Brad Ausmus to go to the bullpen and call upon the newest Angel lefty Adalberto Mejia to face Cody Bellinger. Mejia was up to the challenge getting Bellinger to hit a weak fly ball to Justin Upton to end the Dodgers threat.
The Dodgers made it closer in the bottom of the sixth with RBI-singles by Russell Martin and Joc Pederson to make it 4-3. Again Ausmus did not waste any time as he lifted Justin Anderson in favor of the Angels best shut-down reliever Ty Buttrey. Buttrey as he has done so many times got out of a bases-loaded jam with a little help from his friends. Pujols went to his knees to field a hard hit ball that looked off the bat to be headed for right field, then he delivered a perfect strike to Garneau at home to get the force out. Buttrey then induced Justin Turner to ground out to David Fletcher who forced out Pederson at third to end the inning.
It seemed like every time the Dodgers were about the break through the Angels were able to make plays to stop them. Calhoun continued to show the Angels his value as he connected on a 1-1 pitch from Dodger reliever Yimi Garcia and drove it into the right-field bleachers for an insurance run. It was Calhoun’s 22nd home run of the season and it gave the Angels a 5-3 lead.
Despite his .237 average Calhoun has put together a very good season and is on pace to set career-highs in both home runs and RBIs. His best year in both categories was in 2015 when Calhoun launched 26 homers and drove in 83 runs. Calhoun is on pace to hit 37 homers and drive 88 runs this season. This is not to mention Calhoun’s defense in right field which is second to none. Almost nightly you are seeing Calhoun make a diving catch or making a throw to nab a baserunner trying to take an extra-base.
Calhoun is making it hard for the Angels to even think about trading him at the deadline for prospects. Not only that the Angels may even be inclined to exercise the club option they have for Calhoun in 2020. This will all probably depend on where the team sits at the end of the month and also how confident the Angels are in top-prospect Jo Adell being ready to take Calhoun’s spot in the outfield in 2020. A third option the Angels could take is to decline Calhoun’s 14 million dollar club option and sign Calhoun to a more club-friendly contract say around nine or ten million dollars. Whether Calhoun would except such an offer remains to be seen.
With Angels still leading 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth the Dodgers mounted one final rally. The Dodgers put runners at 2nd and 3rd with only one out off of closer Hansel Robles. A Max Muncy sacrifice fly drew the Dodgers within one run with two outs. This brought up Kiki Hernandez with the tying run at second in Cody Bellinger.
With the 53,725 fans on their feet screaming at the top of their lungs, Hernandez looked as if he had come through with a game-tying single to right field. However, that man again Kole Calhoun had one more play left in him to put an exclamation point on a sweet Angel victory. Calhoun uncorked a perfect throw to Garneau and nabbed Bellinger by about 10 feet at home to end the game and give the Angels an almost improbable series-opening 5-4 victory.
This was another example of a team with great resolve. They may seem overmatched at times especially against baseball’s elite teams, but they keep finding ways to win and on this night it was the Red Baron leading the way.
As the Angels celebrated on the field and looked up to the sky knowing their special Angel Tyler Skaggs was probably dancing around in heaven to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” screaming at the top of his lungs We’re Nasty, We’re Nasty!!!
Back on Earth Kole Calhoun once again proved that he was indeed Nasty. The Dodgers and their fans would agree.