The Los Angeles Angels were headed for another shutout at the hands of the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night. Down 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth, they easily could have folded and regrouped for the Sunday finale. Instead, Shohei Ohtani, Mageuris Sierra, and Taylor Ward came up big in Anaheim.
It started with an Ohtani solo home run in the eighth to make it 3-1. Then with two outs in the ninth and runners on first and second, Angels interim manager Phil Nevin chose to entrust Sierra. That faith paid off in the form of a game-tying triple that was just inches away from being a Little League walk-off home run.
In the 11th — after Sierra forced extras — Ward put an end to the ballgame with a 404-foot blast to right-center field, giving the Angels a 5-3 victory and a chance to win their second consecutive series in a Sunday rubber match.
Sierra, who has zero career home runs in the Majors, was given the ultimate opportunity to show off his clutch gene. Nevin gave him that chance after what he did against the Oakland Athletics earlier this week, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“It was a great moment,” Nevin said. “We thought Ward hit one last night, but this one he got a little more airborne. It was a matchup we liked. But Sierra’s hit in the ninth, I just remembered Wednesday and the two big hits he got. This was a moment he’s had before and bringing someone cold off the bench didn’t make sense to me. And then he delivered again, which was amazing.”
As for the true walk-off in the 11th, Ward believes it can be a boost to return to the elite play he saw in the first two months of the regular season.
“Unbelievable,” Ward said. “It felt really good. I was super happy. It was definitely a good sign going forward. It gives me the confidence to continue to grind through the rest of this year and hopefully continue to put good swings on pitches like that.”
The Angels’ playoff hopes are next to nothing — and that’s no longer the purpose of trying to win games this season — but wins like this still have a ripple effect. Quietly, the Halos have won six of their last nine outings and are 11-11 since the All-Star Break despite not having Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, or any of the players they traded at the deadline.
As the team looks ahead to next season and tries to put together one more contending roster for Ohtani, seeing who can come up in big moments is a hugely positive thing. That’s the main goal over the Angels’ final 48 games.
Trout takes on-field batting practice
Prior to Saturday’s win, Trout took on-field batting practice for the first time in several weeks. The belief is that Trout will absolutely return this season, with the superstar center fielder even saying “sooner rather than later.” However, batting practice is the first of several steps he must complete before that.