The Los Angeles Angels have played some of their worst baseball against the Houston Astros this season, especially on the road. However, Jose Suarez and Luis Rengifo were able to put a stop to that bleeding as they grabbed a wire-to-wire win over their division foes.
Suarez was the hero on the mound, despite not going as deep into the game as he hoped. After pitching a complete game during his last outing, he survived just 5.2 innings against the Astros, having already thrown 102 pitches. Even still, he allowed just one run on three hits and three walks, striking out seven.
Joe Maddon and Suarez both agreed that heavier usage of his curveball has been the game-changer. However, Maddon saw a mental change in Suarez that has contributed to his success in 2021, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“He gets upset with himself once in a while, but he doesn’t start going fast,” Maddon said. “He get upset with himself and he’s able to file it and get the next out. That’s what I’m seeing. That’s what he’s learning how to do. Good pitchers, good starters, do that.”
As for the offense, it was Rengifo carrying the load. While he went just 1-for-4 on the day, his one hit was a two-run home run that made it 4-0, and his RBI groundout in the first inning made it 2-0. He batted in three of the Angels’ four runs.
Maddon spent more time focused on his defense, however, saying that it has been his biggest improvement during his September stint.
“The body is alive,” Maddon said. “Those plays he’s making, coming in on the ball. That backhand play at third. I can’t tell you he’d have made that play last year. He’s picking it cleanly and making accurate throws. He’s only made one mistake since he’s been here. Just a more complete game, with a quicker body. That’s what I’m seeing.”
Rengifo is notably still fighting for a place on the roster in 2022, as the Angels make daily evaluations about where they stand heading to the offseason. Meanwhile, Suarez still feels he needs to prove himself for next season.
As it stands — before free agency — it feels as though Suarez’s spot in the rotation is locked in. Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, and Suarez should be the only true guarantees to be in the 2022 rotation at the moment.
Reid Detmers used COVID quarantine to figure things out
Detmers is another guy that could very easily be in next season’s rotation. However, some early struggles with hard contact and a 10-day COVID quarantine have been setbacks to his chances. He used his quarantine time in Baltimore to figure out what went right and wrong during his first few starts.
Detmers could be in the rotation next season, but he could also get pushed back into the Minors depending on the moves the Angels make.