After splitting a weather-imposed doubleheader on Tuesday in Houston, Angels manager Joe Maddon tried bravely to explain his team’s struggles early in this preciously short 2020 MLB season.
He doesn’t want the players focusing on their stats. He doesn’t want them dwelling on the standings — if they did, they’d be depressed.
With a 10-22 record, second-worst in the major leagues, Maddon wants his Angels to concentrate on the raw data that controls that win-loss record: The scoreboard.
“I still want our guys to buy into and understand, just play the game and watch the scoreboard,” Maddon said after the Angels convincingly won the nightcap 12-5 at Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
“The scoreboard will always tell you everything you need to know and how you’re supposed to play in that moment,” Maddon said. “It’s constantly changing … the score per inning, the count, the outs, everything matters.
“And if we just learn to play the scoreboard and we use that as our guide, we’ll be fine.”
The Angels and Astros postponed their scheduled game Wednesday and squeezed in the doubleheader Tuesday in order to beat the approach of Hurricane Laura, which is bearing down on the Gulf Coast cities of Texas and Louisiana.
In the first of the two seven-inning games, Astros rookie Cristian Javier was backed by a five-run first inning and the 2019 World Series runners-up beat the Angels 6-3.
The second game was more to Maddon’s liking, as the Angels raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and backed Julio Teheran’s start with plenty of offense as the Angels cruised to a 12-5 win.
Angels utilityman David Fletcher went 3-for-8 in the doubleheader, raising his average to .321 and his American League lead in hits to 43 — only two hits behind Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the major-league hits lead.
Fletcher also made a pair of spectacular plays at shortstop in the first game, and another dazzling defensive stop at third base in the second game.
“If there’s a Gold Glove just to give somebody because they’re that good, he (Fletcher) should get one. Doesn’t have to be all at one position,” Maddon said.
Shohei Ohtani, the Angels designated hitter was 2-for-6, drove in two runs, scored two and stole a base.
Outfielder Brian Goodwin drove in four runs on the day, three in the nightcap and the Angels got home runs from both of their second basemen — Tommy La Stella in the first game and Luis Rengifo in the second.
Considering it was only the 10th time the Angels had tasted victory since starting this 60-game “regular” season, they will be happy with their unexpected two days off in a row.
Wednesday’s scheduled game was moved to September 5 in Anaheim during a Houston road trip, and the Astros will play was the “home” team in Angels Stadium in the second game of that doubleheader.
“I don’t mind the re-group period,” Maddon said. “It’s going to help some arms, chill a little bit, it’s definitely going to help the legs on some position players.
“A lot of these guys have been going hard every day, they’ve been grinding it really hard.
“So it’s okay to grab these two, it’s like a mini version of our All-Star break right now.”
Maddon himself took some even earlier rest than he anticipated. The Angels skipper got ejected for the second time in three days on this road trip.
First base umpire Lance Barrett gave Maddon the heave-ho on Sunday in Oakland after arguing a checked-swing call by Barrett that allowed the Athletics’ Mark Canha to avoid striking out.
On Tuesday, Maddon was jawing from the dugout when Ohtani got called out on strikes in the second game on a pitch that was clearly at ankle-height.
This time it was home-plate umpire Clint Vondrak who gave Maddon the thumb. It was the 55th career ejection for Maddon, who is tied for 18th with former Angel manager Gene Mauch in ejections.
Maybe what the Angels and Maddon really need are those two days off and some more wins on the scoreboard.