It was imperative that the Los Angeles Angels start the second half of the season on a strong note. After stumbling to nearly the bottom of the American League standings, it was clear that winning out of the gates after the All-Star break would be essential if they wanted to make any sort of postseason push.
However, in a lopsided series with the Atlanta Braves, the Angels managed to secure just one victory. All three games were far from close, with the Angels faltering in the first two meetings and then putting together a near-perfect outing in the finale.
With a 1-2 start to the second half, the Angels are 15 games below .500 and have an almost unthinkable hill to climb just to get to a Wild Card berth. Despite having some of their best pitchers on the mound, the Braves used a patient offensive approach and stellar pitching to win the three-game set.
Game 1: Braves def. Angels 8-1
With Shohei Ohtani on the mound for the Angels, there was plenty of hope that a win could be stolen out of the break. L.A. had won their last six games in which Ohtani was the starting pitcher, and he looked like his true ace self through six innings.
He had allowed just one hit and struck out 11 batters in the first six frames, but trotted out for what would be a cursed seventh inning. The first five batters reached base safely against Ohtani, including a home run by Matt Olson and an RBI single by Eddie Rosario.
But the game was completely broken open when Orlando Arcia hit a three-run home run, chasing Ohtani from the game with six earned runs in just a seven-batter span.
The Angels mustered a lone run courtesy of a Jonathan Villar — who has since been designated for assignment — home run.
Game 2: Braves def. Angels 7-2
Patrick Sandoval struggled out of the gates in his second consecutive start. He allowed two runs on three hits in the first inning, giving the Braves an immediate 2-0 advantage against a team whose offense has been silent for the better part of two months.
The onslaught continued in the third inning, when a two-out rally by Marcell Ozuna, Arcia, and Michael Harris II put up three more runs to make it 5-0. Sandoval would be removed from the game before the fourth inning. An RBI by Kurt Suzuki and a homer by Ohtani gave the Angels their two runs, but it ultimately wouldn’t matter in a second blowout loss.
The defining feature of this loss for interim manager Phil Nevin was defense, as two errors were committed by Villar, leading to his DFA on Sunday morning.
Game 3: Angels def. Braves 9-1
The Angels got some demons off their back in the series finale on Sunday afternoon. After bringing across just three runs in 18 innings, the Angels offense exploded for five runs in the first inning of the finale.
A Taylor Ward solo home run, an RBI groundout from Brandon Marsh, and RBI singles from Max Stassi, Jo Adell, and Andrew Velazquez made it 5-0 before starter Reid Detmers even took the field. This took some significant pressure off, and helped Detmers put together a quality outing.
He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out six. He brought his ERA for the season down to 3.84.
Stassi and Ward were the stars of the game, as they combined to go 6-for-9 with four RBIs.