Recap: Angels Hang On In San Diego Thanks to ‘Mad Max’ Stassi
Tatis Rendon
Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres gets nailed trying to steal third. // Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

But the next Angels loss is almost certainly the end of their 2020 season hopes. But they won in measures on Tuesday.

The Angels went to San Diego on a bus knowing that they would have to win five of their next five games — all of them — in order to have any chance of seeing the 2020 MLB postseason.

The Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. pissed off Angels catcher Max Stassi in the first inning on Tuesday at Petco Field, and Stassi and young right-handed pitcher Griffin Canning muscled up in response.

The Angels won the game 4-2, and so their faint playoff hopes grew a teeny bit stronger.

Canning has fired a 3.99 ERA over 11 starts this season to begin looking like the No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher the Angels imagined when they drafted him out of UCLA two years ago. He struck out 10 Padres on Tuesday night and his command and composure grows.

He’s only 24 years old.

“He’s even better than that,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said, pointing at the ceiling. “I’m telling you right now. When he (Canning) formulates a game plan to stick with and gains command of that fastball …

“The sky’s the limit.”

The Angels can only look upwards.

After all, the Angels, after malingering through most of this 60-game season, have won five of their last six games. They had taken care of the most important — the first — of the string.

The Angels, after learning that the major leagues’ best defensive shortstop — Andrelton Simmons, was opting out of playing the rest of the 2020 season with the team (more on that later) — they took on the resurgent, playoff-bound Padres.

Despite winning the game, the Angels still need to win their last four games … and have to have a lot of good favor come upon them.

The Angels are 25-31 and everyone knows how much better they should be. They are 3.5 games behind the Houston Astros in the American League West division and the same number behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the league’s wild-card race.

But Angels fans can at least take a perverse delight in how Stassi, the underrated, overlooked catcher, took center stage when Tatis — one of the game’s biggest stars — showboated a bit much for his liking.

In the first inning, after Canning gave up a walk to leadoff man Trent Grishman and Tatis beat out an infield single to shortstop David Fletcher. After a walk to Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer hit a sacrifice fly to left for a 1-0 San Diego lead.

And that’s when Tatis decided to show off why he’s one of the game’s best players.

Tatis took a dancing lead off second base then dashed on a steal for third. While Tommy Pham struck out looking on Canning’s pitch, catcher Stassi delivered a strike of a throw to third base where Tatis was tagged hard by Angel third baseman Anthony Rendon.

Tatis protested and the Padres challenged the call, which was upheld.

And then Stassi got his revenge. All he did was go 4-for-4 with a pair of homers.

Leading off the second inning, Stassi ripped a 1-0 changeup from San Diego soft tosser Zach Davies (7-4) for a homer into Petco’s left field bleachers.

Stassi pounded another home run, his 7th of the season, in the top of the sixth, a two-run bomb to straight-away center field that chased Davies. That’s pumping up.

“I think everyone calls him ‘The Babe’ around here now,” Canning said of Stassi. “He was awesome tonight offensively.”

Stassi, the forgotten catcher, is now one of the Angels’ best hitters with a .293 batting average, seven homers, and 20 runs batted in.

Tatis is on to the playoffs and a long career of stardom. But Stassi, Canning and the Angels will remember the little things in this game.

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