The Los Angeles Angels went with an unorthodox lineup for their series finale against the Oakland Athletics. Needing a win to avoid a sweep, Joe Maddon chose to sit Shohei Ohtani for the day while batting Justin Upton at leadoff and Juan Lagares in the cleanup spot, among other surprising decisions.
Early in the game, it looked like the Angels were headed for their fourth straight loss. They trailed 4-0 after three innings due to a poor showing from Dylan Bundy and their offense didn’t appear to provide much of a spark. This changed in the sixth inning, as the Halos put up five runs between the sixth, seventh, and eighth frames to steal a 6-5 victory.
In the leadoff spot, Upton went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. He spoke about what a win like this can mean for a reeling Angels team, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“I know from the outside it doesn’t look the greatest,” Upton said, “but these guys are fighting every single day. We, as a team, feel like sometimes we’re putting ourselves in positions to win and it just hasn’t worked out for us. We battled back today. We put ourselves in position to win and we were able to win one. Hopefully, that will spark the club.”
Prior to Sunday, the Angels had won just three of their last 12 games, and it started to feel like the season was slipping away from them. A loss on Sunday — and subsequently, a sweep — would have put them in a 9.5-game hole in the division.
A win keeps things manageable for the meantime, and more importantly, it provides some confidence for a team that desperately needed it. Now, they have a day off before finishing their home stand with a two-game set against the Texas Rangers. They’ll then head on the road to play the Athletics once again.
Upton appears hopeful that this win gave them what they need to head into those divisional matchups with confidence.
Ohtani nearly homers in pinch hit effort
Ohtani got the day off on Sunday because Maddon has shown a tendency to give his stars two consecutive days off instead of just one. However, with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Ohtani was brought in as a pinch-hitter. He hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at four, but was very close to a home run.
“Different launch angle and that might have hit the scoreboard,” Maddon said.