Angels infielder Zack Cozart felt relieved as he pulled into first base at Wrigley Field, moments after knocking a 78-mph pitch from Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks to left field for a run-scoring single in the second inning of the Angels’ 6-5 win Saturday.
Cozart hadn’t gotten a hit in his last 22 at-bats. His batting average wasn’t zeroed out because he’d singled in the third game of the season — but it teetered close at .030 (1 for 33).
Then he found a hole in the Cubs’ defensive alignment with the bases loaded. Third baseman David Bote was playing close to the grass, shortstop Javier Baez was shaded toward second base and a slight pull shift was in play. Cozart shot his hit past Bote to end the worst slump in his career.
“I got to first and told [first baseman Anthony] Rizzo, I just doubled my hit total this year,” he said, “so I’m doing great.”
Cozart added two more hits to finish 3 for 4 for the first time since May 23, 2018. The RBI was the 300th of his career.
Cozart began the season in a funk. He had been limited to only nine games during spring training because of a left calf injury. The injury occurred at a moment when Cozart felt he had finally bid farewell to the lingering effects of the season-ending shoulder surgery he had last June.
Still, when he arrived in the Angels clubhouse for the first game this season, Cozart didn’t think the time off would affect him. He’d gotten enough at-bats in minor league spring training games to feel like his timing at the plate was fine.
Then he hit a skid.
Cozart searched for solutions with hitting coaches Jeremy Reed, Paul Sorrento and Shawn Wooten. Manager Brad Ausmus gave him a day off Wednesday so he could tinker without feeling pressured to execute in a game.
“There is some stuff I’m working on. I won’t go into it,” Cozart said. “But it’s nothing big at all. It’s always a small thing when you are struggling hitting or doing good. It’s the tiniest thing.”
The break didn’t immediately pay off in the box score, since Cozart was hitless again in Friday’s series opener against the Cubs. But Saturday seemed like a turning point.
“I felt like it would happen eventually,” Ausmus said. “I didn’t know it would happen today. But it was nice to see. He’s the type of guy that everyone pulls for. It’s nice to see him get those hits and maybe it will get him on a little bit of a roll.”
Outfielder Michael Hermosillo has not encountered any setbacks in his recovery from sports hernia surgery, but he still hasn’t participated in baseball activities. ... Angels manager Brad Ausmus will turn 50 on Sunday. There is a slight chance he might spend part of his birthday waiting around in the renovated visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field with the possibility of the season finale getting postponed. Weather forecasts call for a 100% chance of rain and snow throughout the day, a high in the mid-30s and winds between 15 and 25 mph with 30 mph gusts. “I’m not hoping they bang it but I’m hoping that we don’t sit around all day, having nothing to do on my birthday, playing cards, waiting for them to restart the game,” Ausmus said.