For a few minutes Thursday afternoon, Andrelton Simmons marveled at what his Angels teammates had done without him for five weeks as he recovered from a grade 3 left ankle sprain.
He called the lineup dangerous, complimenting the heavy hitters such Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. He praised Justin Upton for the thump he’d provided since making his season debut.
The four-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop also said he was nervous.
“Just haven’t been with the team for so long,” he explained. “I don’t know. Excited, nervous, all the emotions. It’s going to be an adventure today.”
As the Angels beat the Oakland Athletics 8-3, Simmons’ appearance with the Angels’ for the first time since grotesquely twisting his ankle May 19 wasn’t as adventurous as it was heartening.
Simmons’ return is significant nonetheless. He had a hit in 28 of 32 games before hitting the injured list. Despite his roughly league-average on-base-plus slugging percentage of .738, he threatened in the middle of the Angels’ order because of his improved strength in the batter’s box that yielded harder hits than ever in his career.
The Angels (42-40) proved Thursday they were better with Simmons, who had one hit in four at-bats as the Angels got their fourth win in a row and and seventh in 10 games.
While rookie revelation Griffin Canning overcame shaky command in his first two innings to make it through a two-run six-inning outing, everyone in the Angels lineup collected a hit for only the third time this season. Trout, selected a few hours earlier for his eighth All-Star game in his eighth full season, drove in the Angels’ eighth run of the night. Rookie infielder Luis Rengifo, who remained on the roster despite the fact that Simmons’ return inherently means he’ll get less playing time, assembled his second three-hit game in a week and drove in two runs. Ohtani, batting .329 in June, blasted a two-run shot to the opposite field for his seventh homer in his last 19 games.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for since spring training,” said Kole Calhoun, whose two-run homer in the second erased a 1-0 deficit. “Get Ohtani back, get [Justin] Upton back. Missing Simmons and get him back tonight. You look up and down and there are a lot of guys who can do a lot of things to beat you.”
So they did.