Anthony Rendon is the key to the Angels' stretch run

A healthy Anthony Rendon can get the Angels back to the postseason
Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Angels
Chicago Cubs v Los Angeles Angels / Rob Leiter/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Angels are in the mix. For a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2014, this counts as progress. Entering the week, the Halos sat two games out of the final Wild Card spot, but the team is moving in the wrong direction, falling behind the Astros into third place in the A.L. West thanks to a 4-6 record in its last ten games.

It's difficult to talk about the Angels without mentioning Shohei Ohtani. The Japanese star has ascended to an even higher plane of existence in recent weeks, surging into the major league lead in home runs while making himself a legitimate threat to win the Triple Crown. Oh, and in case you haven't heard, he's also a pretty good pitcher.

Ohtani's star has burned so brightly that he's even eclipsed the greatness of his teammate, Mike Trout. But for all of Ohtani's once-in-a-lifetime ability, he hasn't been able to prevent the Angels from sliding in the standings, proving once again that baseball is a team game. For the Angels to make the playoffs, they'll need even more than what baseball's most talented player can give them.

Don't laugh, but Anthony Rendon could be the X factor to this Angels season

The Angels' $245 million man is infamous for being one of modern baseball's worst return on investments, but the past is past. Rendon returned three days ago from yet another wrist injury, and he now has the chance for redemption.

Rendon was a hitting machine in May, with a Luis Arraez-like .412 average and a ridiculous .512 on-base percentage, but his June was abysmal. He recorded only two hits in 33 at-bats, but that could be attributed to coming back too soon from a groin injury that sidelined him for three weeks.

Injuries have been an inescapable reality of Rendon's tenure with the Angels, but the team needs him healthy now more than ever. He went 0-3 in his first game back from the IL on Friday night, but homered Saturday for only the second time all year and the first time since May 7th.

That home run should give Angels fans hope that Rendon is finally healthy and ready to contribute. With Shohei Ohtani's free agency looming over the franchise like the Sword of Damocles, it's not an overstatement to say that these next three months are the most important in the franchise's history. Make the playoffs, and the odds of Ohtani spending the next decade in Anaheim rise substantially. Fall short, and the rest of your baseball life could be about the one that got away.

Take a breath, Angels fans. The key to it all may just be Anthony Rendon.