Yet that doesn’t stop manager Joe Maddon from using the small ball when the situation calls for it. And lay the foundations for that too. So when Tyler Wade laid an exquisite bunt in the second inning, hitting the pitch by half a step to load the bases without them coming out, it was the product of preparation.
Taylor Ward followed by a grand slam, his third home run in three games, giving the Angels a cushion they never gave up in the 9-5 win over the Cleveland Guardians Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Ward also tripled and doubled, just the most recent example of the Angels’ pop at the plate.
Ohtani survived a rough start to take victory, the Angels’ fourth in a row. Ward’s grand slam and Ohtani’s 97mph fast balls have become indelible memories for fans, but Wade’s bunt showed that the Angels can be finesse as well as punch.
The day before, several Angels hitters, including Wade, were on the court four hours before the game working on bunting. They pushed and dragged the bunts for 45 minutes, pausing from time to time to get instructions from the coaches. Then, long before the game, more emphasis was placed on fundamentals on Wednesday, with the Angels throwing staff practicing pickoff motions and fielding comebacks as they would on a Tempe, Arizona backfield in March.
Spring training was shortened due to blocking, reducing the time spent on fine points like bunt-ing and pickoff play.
Maddon is not one to shrug and just keep going with the season, even when his lineup seems to have as much power as any other in baseball.
To his players, they are doing extra work.
Then there is Ohtani, for whom the extra work is discounted. The two-way phenomenon has collapsed on the plate, his batting average has dropped precariously close to .200, and every day reporters ask Maddon when Ohtani will take a day off. Maddon smiles and repeats with the utmost confidence: “He is in the training. He feels good. He is about to strike”.
Ohtani responded with a double and two singles. And every sixth game, he throws. Jose Ramirez, the Guardians’ best hitter, hit a two-point home run in the first inning and Ohtani pitched two singles in the second and a double in the third.
He then sailed, retiring the last eight batters he faced before leaving after five innings, after throwing 86 pitches, 59 per strike.
Ohtani (2-2) knocked out four and walked one, giving him 30 strikeouts versus just five walks in 191/3 innings this season. The win brought the Angels to first place in the AL West, mid-game ahead of the Seattle Mariners.
Three by six equals a decent start
Patrick Sandoval’s seven goalless innings on Tuesday in the Angels’ 4-1 win over the Guardians marked the third start for each of the six members of the rotation. Four of the six – Ohtani, Sandoval, Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen – pitched well. Lefties Reid Detmers (6.57 ERA) and Jose Suarez (5.54) no.
“Left-handers have the key to us,” Maddon said. “And just to get them to a solid five, five plus [innings] from a better shot with their quick balls. I like the six man rotation, I think it’s here to stay. Especially with Shhei. The right-handers have done quite well up to this point, we have to let the left-handers go. “
Second baseman David Fletcher has returned from his rehab assignment at Triple A in Salt Lake to be evaluated by the medical staff. Fletcher, who has been out with a left hip strain for more than two weeks, had three of 17 in four rehab games. … Third baseman Phil Nevin is sick, prompting staff and some players to wear masks in the clubhouse. Maddon said there are no indications that Nevin contracted COVID. … Wade visited Bryant Arts Academy in Garden Grove and Griffin Canning visited La Veta Elementary School as part of the Angels’ Adopt-A-School program and the school received a donation from the Angels Baseball Foundation.