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Angels vs. Rangers: Angels’ offense takes a day off on Labor Day

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Angels' Max Stassi reacts as he pops out with two men on base.
The Angels’ Max Stassi reacts as he pops out with two men on base during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers on Monday night at Angel Stadium. The Angels lost 4-0.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Angels lost 4-0 on Monday night against the visiting Texas Rangers for a second consecutive defeat. The teams split the four-game series.

Angels’ offense takes Labor Day off in loss to Rangers

Angels pitcher Jaime Barria throws to the Texas Rangers.
Jaime Barria gave up three runs in seven innings and got the loss as the Angels fell 4-0 to the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Angels’ hitters did not show up to work on Labor Day.

Just about everyone else did their job Monday night in the finale of a four-game series against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium. Starter Jaime Barria gave up two early runs but found a groove in the middle innings, setting down 14 Rangers in a row. The Angels’ defense, led by Luis Rengifo at shortstop and Brandon Marsh in center field, was stout.

But the offense — mustering just one hit off Texas rookie starter A.J. Alexy in his six innings and five hits overall for the game — never clocked in during a 4-0 loss.

“I mean, there’s nothing to be upset about,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, whose team suffered a second straight loss and split the series. “I thought we had good at-bats. We pitched well. It was just one of those nights that did not turn in our favor.”

After a couple of pristine July starts, Barria had been experiencing trouble working deep into games — not one of his last four outings before Monday lasted longer than 4 1/3 innings. It’s been a challenge that has held him back since a 2018 rookie season in which he posted a 3.41 ERA across 26 starts.

Through the first couple of innings Monday, it looked as if that problem would rear its head. Texas scored its first run just minutes after the first pitch, with a broken-bat, bloop single by former Dodger DJ Peters bringing home Yonny Hernández. In the second, the Rangers struck again thanks to a three-hit inning and an RBI single from Hernández.

“I feel like out of most of the hits I gave up, only two of them were hit well,” Barria said.

Angels pitching coach Matt Wise pulled Barria aside in the dugout after the second inning to tell him just that, the pitcher said, which gave him confidence to continue attacking the zone.

Top prospect Brandon Marsh finally made it to the majors this season. It has come at time when he has had to deal with the death of his father and a close friend.

Barria (2-3) didn’t have wipeout stuff, recording just three strikeouts in seven innings. But the right-hander used just about everything in his tool belt — a darting sinker here, an elusive slider there — to keep Texas hitters off-balance. A seventh-inning RBI double from the Rangers’ Jose Trevino was the only other run Texas managed against Barria.

Barria’s hard-fought effort was for naught, though, as the Angels hung zeroes on the scoreboard inning after inning. Coming off a five-inning, one-hit performance in his first major league start, Alexy (2-0), a 23-year-old right-hander, did himself one better against the Angels, going six strong innings while striking out seven. Jared Walsh’s single in the second was the Angels’ only hit off him.

Opportunity arose when Alexy was removed to start the seventh, and opportunity was extinguished with an inability to capitalize on baserunners.

With two outs, Jo Adell legged out an infield single and Marsh slapped a base hit up the middle to put runners on first and third — but Max Stassi flew out. In the eighth, Shohei Ohtani batted with two outs and Juan Lagares on third, but he popped out.

It was just that kind of night.

Highlights from the Angels’ 4-0 loss to the visiting Texas Rangers on Monday night.

The lack of offensive contribution overshadowed a tremendous all-around defensive performance. Leading the charge was Rengifo, who after being called up recently seemed to scoop Rangers grounders off the infield every other play.

Rengifo is the latest in a line of Angels infielders who have seized opportunities — Phil Gosselin and Jack Mayfield among them, Maddon said.

“They all have something to prove and they all have good motives individually,” Maddon said before the game.

Marsh also made a couple of difficult plays look routine in tracking down Texas drives that looked primed for extra bases.

Despite the Angels falling out of playoff contention, Maddon expressed pride in his team for competing each game. On Monday night, however, the players punched the clock unsatisfied.

“Little bit unlucky for us tonight,” Maddon said. “It happens.”

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Angels vs. Rangers updates: Angels lose 4-0

Top of the 1st: The Rangers take all of three minutes to put their first run of the night on the board. Angels starter Jaime Barria surrendered a leadoff single to Texas third baseman Yonny Hernandez, then hit Isaiah Kiner-Falefa on the very next pitch. After an Adolis Garcia lineout moved Hernandez to third, Rangers centerfielder D.J. Peters blooped a broken-bat single into right field to score Hernandez. 1-0 Texas.

Top of the second: Jaime Barria gets burned by another leadoff single, as a hit by Yohel Pozo to start off the inning seemed like it could be consequential after a double play turned by Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher - their second of the game - but Yonny Hernandez drove in Pozo with an RBI single to put the Rangers up 2-0.

Top of the 7th: After Jaime Barria was cruising through the middle innings, the Rangers’ bats woke up again in the top of the seventh with an RBI double from catcher Jose Trevino. Texas leads 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

Top of the 9th: The Rangers tack on another run off Angels reliever Andrew Wantz, courtesy of an RBI single from catcher Jose Trevino.

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For Angels pitcher José Suarez, complete game was bittersweet

Angels pitcher José Suarez warms up before a game against the Texas Rangers.
Left-hander José Suarez pitched a complete game Saturday night to lead the Angels to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

José Suarez took a long look at the Saturday night sky seconds after throwing the first complete game of his career.

He pounded his glove, sharing a smile and warm embrace with catcher Kurt Suzuki. After turning away from home plate, he patted his chest, glancing again up at the stars.

This was a defining moment for the 23-year-old pitcher. After struggling throughout much of his young career with consistency, Suarez had just delivered a nine-inning, one-run, eight-strikeout gem to stifle the Texas Rangers in a 4-1 win for the Angels. Fireworks were set to erupt. Triumphant music blasted from the Angel Stadium speakers.

But his mind, in those seconds after the final out, wasn’t on any of that. It wasn’t grounded to the dirt under his feet or focused on the sea of red across the seats. It was thousands of miles away, back to his mom and dad and sister in Venezuela.

“I was thinking, back home, of my family that I miss a lot,” Suarez said after the game.

The complete game was yet another in a long line of baseball memories that Suarez has made alone, in the United States, without the people he calls his “biggest supporters” immediately by his side.

Suarez was signed as an international free agent by the Angels in 2014 at just 16 years old. A kid barely old enough to drive a car in the United States moved thousands of miles away to chase a major league dream. Before he reached his post-teen years, Suarez had bounced between three rookie leagues and the Angels’ single-A affiliate in Burlington, Iowa. At 20, he went from Inland Empire to Mobile, Ala., to triple A in Salt Lake City.

With each level he climbed, though, it didn’t always get easier to assimilate. Growing up, he would travel by himself often. But moving to the U.S., bouncing around small cities, was a different animal. He got homesick.

“Since I left Venezuela, it was a struggle for me,” Suarez said. “We didn’t have the money [in the minors] to be very comfortable, where I was at. But I always had the mentality of making it to the big leagues one day.”

In 2019, that dream came true, as Suarez pitched the Angels to a win in the first game of his career against the Seattle Mariners. The ball from that game now sits in his house back in Venezuela, next to every single one of his old gloves, in a collection of his baseball memorabilia Suarez’s father has kept since he was little.

“It’s very special for my dad to see what kind of goals I’ve hit,” Suarez said.

With the gem against the Rangers, Suarez hit another one.

He struggled through the first two major league seasons of his career, posting a 7.11 ERA in his rookie year and giving up 10 earned runs over two starts in 2020. But in 2021, he has turned over a new leaf, starting the year with some strong performances as both a starter and in long relief. The complete game dropped his ERA on the season to 3.74.

“He’s got the stuff, and he’s got the makeup, to be really good,” manager Joe Maddon said after Saturday’s game. “Hopefully, that performance will stick.”

Suarez still might be an ocean away from his family. But the baseball from his complete game will be sent back to his house in Venezuela, to sit next to the one from his debut. And there are plenty more holes to fill in his father’s collection.

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Pitchers Janson Junk, Kyle Tyler make MLB debuts in Angels’ loss to Rangers

Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Kyle Tyler throws during the seventh inning.
Angels relief pitcher Kyle Tyler delivers during the seventh inning against the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

On Saturday, the Angels matched a club record by being exactly .500 for the 26th time this year.

On Sunday, they set another franchise high-mark reflective of an injury-plagued, roster-churning campaign in which they couldn’t stay in contention.

With pitchers Janson Junk and Kyle Tyler making their major league debuts in a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, the Angels (68-69) have now used a club-record 61 different players this season.

“It’s always nice when you set a record, isn’t it?” manager Joe Maddon rhetorically joked after the game. “It’s just part of what’s going on right now in the game. … The combination of [a shortened schedule] last year and some unfortunate moments for us this year has opened up this audition for a lot of guys.”

While using this many players certainly wasn’t the Angels’ plan entering the season, it has become a necessity amid a wave of injuries, absences and ineffectiveness from the more veteran portion of the roster.

And with a month still to go in the season, the team can only hope it accelerates its ability to build for the future — a process that continued with Sunday’s two new pitchers.

Here are three observations from the game.

Junk’s first start

A year ago, Junk wasn’t even included in the New York Yankees’ 60-man player pool in the pandemic-shortened season.

But after refining his repertoire over the break, then orchestrating an impressive minor league campaign that led to the Angels trading for him on deadline day as part of the Andrew Heaney deal, the 25-year-old right-hander earned his first big league opportunity on Sunday, giving up five runs (though only one was earned) in a 3 ⅔-inning start.

“I thought he represented himself well,” Maddon said. “There wasn’t a lot of swing-and-misses, but I thought he was poised. I thought he had a good mound presence. I liked a lot of what I saw.”

After giving up a pair of singles to begin, Junk settled down. He escaped the first inning by enducing a double-play ball. He bounced back from a DJ Peters solo home to lead off the second by retiring the next three in a row. And he got two quick outs in the third.

Top prospect Brandon Marsh finally made it to the majors this season. It has come at time when he has had to deal with the death of his father and a close friend.

He ran into trouble from there, however, surrendering a single and a walk before shortstop Luis Rengifo committed a throwing error that allowed one run to score and the inning to continue. In the next at-bat, Peters, a former Dodger and Glendora High graduate, hammered a hanging curveball for a three-run home run.

Junk was pulled after giving up another two-out single in the fourth, finishing the day with two strikeouts, one walk and an upbeat evaluation of his first major league game.

“Other than [the three-run home run], I was happy about it,” Junk said. “I was commanding the zone. I was throwing my offspeed for strikes. Not walking people. That’s all I could ask for.”

Maddon said postgame the team is still deciding whether Junk will get another turn in the rotation.

Tyler’s strong debut

Tyler, a 24-year-old right-hander the Angels drafted in the 20th round in 2018, had a much more straightforward debut Sunday.

Coming out of the bullpen to begin the seventh, he pitched three scoreless innings, striking out two batters and yielding only one hit.

“He threw strikes and he attacked them,” Maddon said. “I thought he was great.”

Tyler was originally recalled on Aug. 28, then waited seven days without playing. Once he took the mound, however, he displayed much of the form that helped him rack up a 3.66 ERA in 20 outings (14 starts) between double A and triple A in the minors this season.

Maddon said Tyler probably would continue in a long relief role for the time being.

“As we go more deeply into it, it might change,” Maddon said. “But for right now, he did his job beautifully today.”

Adell homers twice

Jo Adell hits a home run for the Angels during the sixth inning Sunday.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The Angels’ best offensive display Sunday also came from a young player, as outfielder Jo Adell had his second career multi-home run game with a solo blast in the fourth inning and two-run shot in the sixth.

While Adell’s all-around game has looked better this year than in his debut 2020 campaign, he entered Sunday with only one homer in his first 29 big league games in 2021.

Maddon explained the issue as Adell simply missing pitches, too often fouling off mistakes instead of driving them.

“He was getting good swings off,” Maddon said. “But the ball was going straight back.”

That changed Sunday.

Adell’s first home run came on an elevated first-pitch sinker over the outside corner, a 428-foot bomb that marked the second longest of his major league career. His second came on a similar pitch but was instead hit the other way on a line drive that just cleared the right-field wall.

“The coaches and I talked pregame about the approach going in, get something out over the plate, middle-away that I can handle and get extended on,” Adell said. “Was able to get those pitches. Glad I was able to capitalize and do damage.”

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Angels vs. Rangers recap: Rangers win 7-3 as Janson Junk makes MLB debut

A recap of the Rangers 7-3 win over the Angels.

Top 1st, no score — Junk throws scoreless first: Janson Junk, making his MLB debut, worked out of early trouble on just 12 pitches in his first major-league inning, escaping a two-on jam with an inning-ending double play.

Junk gave up a couple tough luck singles to begin the game (Leody Taveras singled after getting a favorable ball call on a potential third strike; Isiah Kiner-Falefa reached on a swinging bunt) but then got a fly out from Adolis García and double-play grounder against Nate Lowe.

His fastball was sitting in the 93-94 mph range, and he threw a couple solid curveballs for strikes.

Top 2nd, 1-0 Rangers — DJ Peters takes Junk deep: DJ Peters took advantage of a misplaced fastball from Junk, hammering an elevated heater to straightaway center field for a solo home run in the second inning.

Junk immediately settled back down, however, inducing two soft pop ups before getting his first big-league strikeout to end the frame.

Top 3rd, 5-0 Rangers — Rangers score four unearned runs: Junk got two quick outs to begin the third. Then the inning went sideways.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa hit a single, followed by a five-pitch walk to Adolis García.

In the next at-bat, Nate Lowe hit a grounder back up the middle. Junk tried to snag it, but it deflected off his glove. Shortstop Luis Rengifo was still able to field it, but misfired on his throw to first, committing an error that allowed a run to score.

DJ Peters then made it worse, clobbering a three-run shot to left for his second home run of the day.

All four runs were unearned, but the Angels find themselves in a deep hole.

Top 4th, 5-0 Rangers — Junk’s debut ends after 3 2/3 innings: Junk’s MLB debut came to an end after giving up a two-out single in the fourth, when Joe Maddon opted to summon Jimmy Herget from the bullpen.

Junk threw 59 pitches (40 for strikes) in his outing, giving up six hits (including the two homers) and a walk while striking out two. He threw a lot of fastballs and curveballs, plus a few sliders and cutters.

Herget stranded the inherited runner, making Junk’s final line: 3.2 innings, 5 runs (1 earned), 6 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

Bottom 4th, 5-1 Rangers — Jo Adell homers: Jo Adell put the Angels on the board with a solo home run to left-center, his second since being recalled to the majors this season.

In six games against the Rangers this year, Adell has nine hits (out of 26 total), four RBI and an OPS over .900.

Mid 6th, 7-`1 Rangers — Rangers add to lead: The Rangers added to their lead in the fifth, after Jonah Heim worked a bases-loaded walk against Jake Petricka, who inherited the jam from Jimmy Herget.

They tacked on another run in the sixth on an RBI single from Isiah Kiner-Falefa.

Bottom 6th, 7-3 Rangers — Adell hits second home run: Jo Adell has his second career multi-homer game.

The Angels rookie went deep for the second time in the sixth inning, lining a two-run blast the other way.

In six games against the Rangers this year, Adell has 10 hits, six RBI and four extra-base knocks.

Top 7th, 7-3 Rangers — Kyle Tyler makes MLB debut: A week after being called up, Kyle Tyler finally made his MLB debut, pitching a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh.

Tyler, 24, was a 20th round pick in 2018 and had a 3.66 ERA in 20 games in the minor leagues this season.

He also became the 61st different player to appear for the Angels this season, setting a club record.

Final, Rangers win 7-3: Kyle Tyler continued his impressive debut, allowing only one hit over three scoreless innings. But, the Angels offense couldn’t mount a comeback, stranding a couple runners in both the eighth and ninth innings. They are now 68-69 on the season.

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Justin Upton goes on IL; Kean Wong recalled again

Justin Upton was placed on the injured list on Sunday with a back injury.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

For the second time this year, Justin Upton is on the injured list with a back injury.

The Angels placed the outfielder on the 10-day IL with a right lumbar strain on Sunday, a day after he was scratched from the lineup with back pain.

“It just popped up on him again,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said of Upton, who has been dealing with back issues for much of the season. “We’ll play it out and see where it takes us in the next 10 days, then make an evaluation.”

Upton missed almost a month after suffering a right low back strain in June. Before that injury, he had been playing well as the Angels’ leadoff hitter. But since returning, he had hit just .126 over his last 26 games.

On the season, he has a .211 batting average and .705 on-base-plus-slugging percentage with 17 home runs and 41 RBI.

“He’s not been 100 [percent], but he’s been wanting to stay with it,” Maddon said. “Don’t forget what he was doing a couple months ago when he was leading off. He carried us for a while. And then the injury popped up, and things haven’t been the same.”

Short hops

In a corresponding move, Kean Wong was called up, the eighth time this season the infielder has been recalled from triple A.

After experiencing lingering soreness in his calf following a workout last week, Mike Trout has done core exercises in recent days as he continues trying to return to the field. Maddon said it was still unclear if Trout would be able to come back this season. He has been out since mid-May with a right calf strain.

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José Suarez pitches a complete game in Angels’ 4-1 win over Rangers

The Angels' José Suarez pitches against the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
Angels starting pitcher José Suarez delivers during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Time after time again this season, promising starts for Angels pitcher José Suarez have turned into clunkers in the blink of an eye. With one missed location, one ill-advised pitch selection, smooth outings would go off the rails.

It’s the reason why Suarez dragged a 5.53 ERA in nine starts this season into Thursday’s game against the Texas Rangers, despite some strong individual efforts. And after he cruised through the first three innings, trouble arose in the middle innings as Texas strung hits together.

But Suarez did something he’s sometimes struggled with in his young career: He kept his composure. And as he continued to pound away at the strike zone through all nine innings, he held the Rangers to a single run in a dominant complete-game performance to lead the Angels to a 4-1 victory.

Top prospect Brandon Marsh finally made it to the majors this season. It has come at time when he has had to deal with the death of his father and a close friend.

“He was outstanding,” manager Joe Maddon said. “There were a couple times he kind of looked up a bit and he was upset with himself, but he got over it fast.”

Of course, it sure helps with run support when the leading candidate for the American League Most Valuable Player award, well, plays like it.

In the top of the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead, two-way star Shohei Ohtani stepped to the plate with runners on first and second against Rangers starter Kolby Allard. He was fresh off a 117-pitch outing the night before, and Maddon said the workload “might’ve been heavy.”

But did Ohtani want a day off? No way.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘OK, seven innings, 117 pitches, 100 miles an hour … you’ve got to be, like, really sore today,’” Maddon said pregame. “And without hesitation, he wanted to be back out there.”

Ohtani has demonstrated time and time again this season that maladies such as soreness are the problems of mere mortals. He delivered the stuff of legends again, obliterating a first-pitch offering from Allard into the right-field seats for a three-run homer that sent Angel Stadium into a Saturday night fever.

Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hit his 43rd home run of the season against the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

As he assumed his customary high stance in his next at-bat in the eighth inning, chants of “M-V-P!” rang out among the crowd, nearly as loud as the fireworks that exploded into the night sky after his home run. To cap off his night, Ohtani singled into right field and proceeded to try to steal second. He would’ve been safe if not for an aggressive slide that took his foot off the bag.

“You really have to understand what’s going on here,” Maddon said. “The physical component of this, it’s mentally staggering to be able to do what he’s done. Understand exactly what you’re watching.”

Through the first three innings, Suarez dissected Texas’ offense with surgical efficiency, throwing just 30 pitches without allowing a single hit, walk or run. He challenged Rangers hitters with a variety of well-placed four-seamers, then utilized a devastating changeup as a strikeout pitch — three of his four strikeouts across the frames came via the offspeed.

“It gives me extreme confidence when my changeup’s working that well,” Suarez said.

In the top of the fourth with a one-run lead, Rangers leadoff hitter Leody Tavares finally got ahold of a Suarez fastball, driving a double into the left-center field gap. With one out, Suarez wheeled for a pickoff attempt and threw the ball into center field to advance Tavares to third.

The ill-fated pickoff attempt was fresh on his mind, and slugger Adolis Garcia was stepping to the plate. Things looked as if they could go south in a hurry.

Then Suarez set Garcia down on three pitches — the last a filthy changeup — and pumped three challenge fastballs, each more confident than the last, right past the swinging bat of Rangers leftfielder D.J. Peters.

Highlights from the Angels’ 4-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

He wriggled out of another jam in the fifth inning, after first baseman Nathaniel Lowe blooped a single into left field and third baseman Charlie Culberson tapped a roller into a dead spot on the infield.

With runners on first and second and one out, Suarez reared back and induced two flyouts, the second of which was a fantastic sliding catch by Phil Gosselin in left field.

Gosselin, ironically, was tabbed to start the game at first base in a day off for Jared Walsh. But minutes before game time, it was announced that planned left fielder Justin Upton would be scratched with back pain, inducing Maddon to insert Walsh at first and move Gosselin.

Upton has struggled mightily since returning from a lower back injury in late July, hitting .130 in that stretch. Maddon said from his understanding, Upton’s latest injury was similar to the previous and he’ll undergo testing.

From there, Suarez mowed through the Rangers without a hitch. With an 0-2 count to Garcia and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, he unleashed a high fastball to whiff the outfielder again. It marked the longest start of his career.

This is their moment: Shohei Ohtani, Naomi Osaka, Hideki Matsuyama, Naoya Inoue and more Japanese athletes shine in unique ways on the global stage.

From there, Suarez cruised before allowing an RBI groundout in the ninth inning. Despite losing the shutout, he closed out the first complete game of his career, turning away after the final out and unleashing a two-handed fist pump in celebration.

“I was thinking of my family back home,” Suarez said of the moment. “I miss them a lot.”

It was the finest performance of his career, and one where — perhaps for the first time — he never once looked fazed.

It was only a little over a month ago that Jack Mayfield was just a guy happy to have a second chance with the Angels. Now he’s reached cult-hero status.

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Shohei Ohtani crushes home run No. 43 to extend Angels’ lead

Shohei Ohtani sent Angel Stadium into a frenzy with a three-run homer, his 43rd of the year.

After a Luis Rengifo leadoff walk and David Fletcher reached on a grounder that went right through the legs of Rangers third baseman Charlie Culberson, Ohtani demolished the very next offering into the right-field seats to give the Angels a 4-0 lead.

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Joe Maddon likes what he sees from rehabbing Alex Cobb

Los Angeles Angels pitcher Alex Cobb winds up duirng the first inning of the team's baseball game.
Angels pitcher Alex Cobb delivers against the Minnesota Twins on July 23.
(Jim Mone / Associated Press)

In the waning months of the season, Angels manager Joe Maddon has often had to work to stitch together the seams of a starting rotation that’s been pulled apart by injuries and inconsistency.

If a simulation game Saturday before facing the Texas Rangers was any indication, Alex Cobb, one of the few sure things in the Angels’ rotation before a July injury, might soon return to the patchwork.

“I liked it a lot,” Maddon said of Cobb’s performance. “The fastball had good life and location, curveball good spin, he threw a couple of his split-changes. Around the plate with everything.”

After missing a scheduled start July 29 with a blister, Cobb was placed on the injured list the next day with wrist inflammation. His status has fluctuated over the last month, but he appears to be progressing smoothly after a bullpen session Monday.

“Tomorrow’s the big day — how do you feel the day after, and then we’ll figure it out after that,” Maddon said, “but that was better than I anticipated.”

Cobb holds a 7-3 record and a 3.82 ERA with 84 strikeouts across 77 2/3 innings.

The next steps for him likely will be an accelerated sim game, Maddon said, followed by an evaluation of when he’d be able to rejoin the rotation.

Lineup notes

— Two-way star Shohei Ohtani, on the heels of a career-high 117 pitches Saturday, is back in the lineup. Maddon said the workload might’ve been heavy and he’d monitor how Ohtani was feeling. He said the designated hitter wanted to hit “without hesitation.”

“I don’t know who that other guy is who’d be able to do that,” Maddon said.

— Infielder Luis Rengifo, who was called up from triple A Wednesday, is back in the Angels’ lineup for the first time since late July, hitting ninth and playing shortstop. Rengifo’s batting average this season is .151.

“It’s about a consistent game, it’s about a consistent winning style,” Maddon said. “He doesn’t have to get five hits tonight. He doesn’t have to make spectacular plays.”

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In ‘growth moment,’ Shohei Ohtani sets career high in pitches and lifts Angels to win

Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) returns to the dugout after pitching during the seventh inning Sep. 3, 2021.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) returns to the dugout after finishing the seventh inning.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani seemingly already has the American League MVP award locked up. He still leads the major leagues in home runs, with three more than anyone else. And he long ago erased any doubts about the feasibility of playing both ways, full time, over the course of a season.

So, with a month left to play for an Angels team out of the playoff picture, what does Ohtani have left to accomplish?

Manager Joe Maddon has a couple of ideas.

“Pile up some innings, stay durable, stay out there,” Maddon said Friday afternoon before Ohtani’s 20th pitching start of the season. “Hopefully he can complete the whole thing, health-wise. That’s going to benefit him and us next year.”

Hours later, Ohtani hit each of those marks on cue, shining in another memorable two-way performance to lift the Angels to a 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers.

He survived an injury scare in the first inning, staying in the game after a hard comebacker struck his right hand — not far from where he was hit by a pitch on his wrist last Saturday.

He eclipsed 100 mph with his fastball twice, the first time since his first start of the season April 4 that he had reached triple digits in a regular-season game.

And he not only completed seven strong innings, surrendering just two runs while striking out eight, but also set a career high for pitches, throwing 117 of them in a game that he and Maddon hope can serve as another building block for his future.

“It absolutely does something for him down the road,” Maddon said.

“I think it’ll definitely help in the future,” echoed Ohtani, who improved to 9-1 as a pitcher on the season and lowered his earned-run average to 2.97. “I think Joe will have faith in me to keep putting me out there past 100 pitches.”

Top prospect Brandon Marsh finally made it to the majors this season. It has come at time when he has had to deal with the death of his father and a close friend.

Maddon said before the game that Ohtani wouldn’t be on any pitch limit, even after the right-hander was scratched from a scheduled start three days earlier because of wrist soreness resulting from the hit-by-pitch last weekend.

He wasn’t kidding.

The Rangers made Ohtani work, beating out three infield singles and fouling off 34 pitches.

They made him grind, putting at least one runner aboard in five of his seven innings and multiple men on base four times.

But they never got him to break, going 0 for 4 with runners in scoring position and tallying their only runs on a two-run blast in the second inning from Jason Martin.

Instead, Ohtani weathered every storm.

“I felt really good about extending him tonight,” Maddon said. “He gave up the home run. Otherwise, he was in great control and command tonight with good stuff.”

Highlights from the Angels’ 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

After getting hit by the comebacker — a 102.3-mph line drive off the bat of Nate Lowe — Ohtani induced an inning-ending groundout in the next at-bat.

After Martin’s home run in the second, Ohtani responded with his first two strikeouts of the night.

With runners on second and third and one out in the fourth, he dialed up his velocity, blowing Martin away with a 100.4-mph heater before throwing pitches of 100.5 and 99.5 mph in the next at-bat to get an inning-ending grounder.

And after he surged past his previous high of 110 pitches in the seventh, he stranded his final couple of runners by making a nice defensive play to cover first base on a grounder hit to the right side.

As the Oakland Athletics ponder a move to Las Vegas, they’re exploring a location next to a possible train station, providing easy access for Angels fans.

“It was one of his better overall performances all year for me,” Maddon said, adding: “It worked out perfectly. It’s just one of those scripted nights.”

The Angels’ offense even did enough to help Ohtani earn his ninth victory of the season. Steals from David Fletcher and Phil Gosselin led to a couple of runs in the first inning. Then, a two-out rally in the sixth that culminated in Max Stassi’s infield RBI single put the Angels back in front.

In the top of the seventh, Maddon let Ohtani return to the mound despite the fact his pitch count was already up to 92 — a mark he had passed only five times previously this season.

Any hope of a short inning faded quickly, after Ohtani threw eight pitches to strike out Nick Solak — pushing him to the 100-pitch mark for only the fourth time in his major league career — and gave up a single to Martin in the next at-bat.

Andrew Wantz began to warm up as Ohtani fooled Leody Taveras with a splitter for a called third strike. But then, after throwing his personal-record 111th pitch of the game, he walked Yonny Hernandez to put the go-ahead run on base.

“I thought there was a good chance I would be taken out right there,” Ohtani said through his interpreter after the game. “But Joe had faith in me and let me pitch to that last batter.”

Ohtani didn’t let him down.

After getting ahead with a first-pitch slider against Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Ohtani pumped three straight fastballs clocked at 99 mph. When Kiner-Falefa tapped the last one toward Jared Walsh at first base, Ohtani sprinted to cover the bag and put away the final out.

As he walked back to the dugout, Ohtani was showered by a standing ovation.

His night wasn’t done, as he finished an 0-for-4 offensive performance with a strikeout the next half-inning. But his biggest challenge was complete. Once again, he pushed the boundaries of what he can accomplish. And he and the Angels are confident of the positive long-term impacts it potentially made.

“Pitchers like him are different,” Maddon said. “They’re not the kind of guys you really want to coddle and take the ball from early. … This is an absolute growth moment for him.”

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Angels vs. Rangers recap: Angels win 3-2

Live updates as the Angels open a four-game series against the Texas Rangers ...

Top 1st, no score — Shohei Ohtani OK after getting hit by comebacker: With two outs in the first inning, Shohei Ohtani was hit by a 102.3-mph comebacker off the bat of Nate Lowe but stayed in the game and completed a scoreless frame.

The ball seemed to hit Ohtani near his right throwing hand — not far from where he was hit by a pitch on his wrist last Saturday, an impact that caused lingering soreness and kept him from making a scheduled start Tuesday.

However, after throwing a couple of practice pitches in front of the team’s training staff, Ohtani looked to be OK, hitting 97 mph twice in the following at-bat to end the inning.

Bottom 1st, 2-0 Angels — Angels turn aggressive baserunning into opening runs: The Angels were aggressive on the bases in the first inning, and it paid off. After David Fletcher hit a leadoff single, he advanced to second on a grounder, stole third for his 14th steal of the season, then scored when Phil Gosselin hit a line drive through a pulled-in infield.

Gosselin then took advantage of his speed, stealing second before racing home on Jared Walsh’s RBI single.

Top 2nd, tied 2-2 — Rangers answer with two-run homer: The Rangers first three hits of the night were each infield singles. Their fourth one left the yard.

Jason Martin went deep to right field off Ohtani with one out in the second, a two-run blast that tied the score. It is the fifth home run Ohtani has given up in his last three starts. He had surrendered only seven total in his first 17 outings prior.

Top 4th, tied 2-2 — Ohtani escapes jam with triple-digit fastballs: For the first time since his first start of the season, Ohtani eclipsed 100 mph in a regular-season game. Twice.

Ohtani dialed up the velocity while facing his biggest jam of the night, with runners at second and third and only one out. First, he fanned Jason Martin with a 100.4 heater at the top of the zone. Then, he hit 100.5 mph and 99.5 mph in the next at-bat, eventually getting Leody Taveras to ground out and end the inning.

Bottom 6th, Angels lead 3-2 — Two-out rally puts Angels back in front: The Angels retook the lead in the sixth inning after Jo Adell beat out an infield single with two outs, Brandon Marsh lined a double into right field in the next at-bat, and Max Stassi reached on a ground ball to short to drive Adell home and give the Angels the lead.

Meanwhile, even at 92 pitches, Ohtani returned to the mound to begin the seventh inning.

Top 7th, Angels lead 3-2 — Ohtani sets career high in pitches: Angels manager Joe Maddon said before the game that Shohei Ohtani wouldn’t be on any pitch limit after missing a start Tuesday. He wasn’t kidding.

Ohtani finished the seventh inning at 117 pitches, needing every last one to strand a couple of runners.

After Ohtani issued a two-out walk in the inning, pitching coach Matt Wise and interpreter Ippei Mizuhara came out to the mound to chat. Ohtani, however, stayed in the game and made a nice defensive play to cover first base on a grounder that ended the frame.

He finishes his start with eight strikeouts and lowered his ERA to 2.97.

Final, Angels win 3-2 — Steve Cishek pitched a scoreless eighth and Raisel Iglesias got his 30th save in the ninth to help the Angels improve to 67-68. Shohei Ohtani was credited with the win, improving his pitching record to 9-1.

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Shohei Ohtani returns to mound, Janson Junk called up and other Angels notes

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani throws against the Detroit Tigers on Aug. 18.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Shohei Ohtani will return to the mound Friday night in the Angels’ series opener against the Texas Rangers, his first outing since Aug. 25 after wrist soreness resulting from a hit-by-pitch forced him to be scratched from a pitching start Tuesday.

Ohtani enters the game with an 8-1 record and 3.00 earned-run average as a pitcher this season. In 105 innings, he has 127 strikeouts and 39 walks.

Angels manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani won’t be on any particular pitch limit coming off his wrist injury.

“He feels really good,” Maddon said. “He knows himself. ... I don’t question when he tells me when he’s fine or not fine. He’s been really open and honest.”

Ohtani will also bat second in the Angels’ lineup, the 17th time in 20 pitching starts this year he has played both ways.

Top prospect Brandon Marsh finally made it to the majors this season. It has come at time when he has had to deal with the death of his father and a close friend.

Asked what more he would like to see out of Ohtani — who is already seemingly close to locking up the American League MVP award — over the final month of the season, Maddon cited a couple things.

Stay healthy, and build momentum into the offseason.

“Pile up some innings, stay durable, stay out there,” Maddon said. “Hopefully he can complete the whole thing, health-wise. That’s going to benefit him and us next year.

“If we can keep him well, if he can keep himself well, and compete and complete [the season], that’s going to set him up for next year. When you go home after something like that, your mind is satiated. Like, ‘Look what I just did.’ You can build off something like that.”

Janson Junk called up

In a corresponding move with the release of shortstop José Iglesias, the Angels selected the contract of right-handed pitcher Janson Junk, calling him up directly from Class AA barely a month after acquiring him in a trade from the New York Yankees.

Maddon said Junk will either start or pitch in a bulk-innings or piggy-back role and that he could factor in as soon as Sunday or Monday.

As the Oakland Athletics ponder a move to Las Vegas, they’re exploring a location next to a possible train station, providing easy access for Angels fans.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about him,” Maddon said.

A former 22nd-round draft pick out of Seattle University, the 25-year-old right-hander had a breakthrough minor league season this year.

With the Yankees’ double-A affiliate, he had a 1.78 ERA in 14 games (12 starts). Upon joining the Angels’ double-A club, the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Junk had a 5.27 ERA in five starts but carried a perfect game into the ninth inning of his most recent start Aug. 27.

Reid Detmers, Jose Marte back with team

Angels pitcher Reid Detmers delivers against the Houston Astros on Aug. 15.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Angels were rejoined Friday by a couple of pitchers who went on the injured list during the team’s COVID-19 issues last week, as Reid Detmers and Jose Marte returned to Angel Stadium after quarantining on the East Coast.

Marte, a rookie reliever who had made only one appearance before going on the IL, was stuck in Williamsport, Pa., where the Angels were playing in the Little League Classic.

Detmers, another rookie who had made four starts this year, went on the IL a few days later during the team’s series in Baltimore, where he stayed until being cleared to come back.

Reliever Austin Warren, the third pitcher who went on the IL without designation as the team was battling COVID-19 issues, has not rejoined the club yet.

Maddon said he wasn’t sure how much time Detmers and Marte would need to get reacclimated before being placed back on the active roster.

Short hops

Maddon didn’t have any update on Mike Trout (right calf strain) as of Friday afternoon. It remains unclear whether the center fielder will be able to return this season. ... Pitcher Alex Cobb (right wrist inflammation) continues to progress, according to Maddon, but doesn’t have a return date targeted yet.

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Angels release shortstop José Iglesias

Shortstop José Iglesias slides into a base during a game.
The Angels released shortstop José Iglesias on Friday.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

The Angels released shortstop José Iglesias on Friday, parting ways with the veteran infielder who was already set to become a free agent this offseason.

The Angels acquired Iglesias, 31, this past winter in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, hopeful the former All-Star could build off a career-best season at the plate in the shortened 2020 campaign.

Iglesias, however, regressed back to his career norms, batting .259 with eight home runs, 41 RBIs and a .670 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

A historically strong fielder, Iglesias also struggled defensively this year, committing a career-high 16 errors and career-worst negative-21 defensive runs saved, according to Baseball Reference.

Since Aug. 27, Iglesias had been replaced as the Angels’ everyday shortstop by Jack Mayfield, starting in just one of the team’s past six games before being released.

And with other infielders such as Mayfield, Phil Gosselin and Luis Rengifo still populating the roster — each of whom remains under team control through at least next season — the club decided it was more important to prioritize playing time for those players down the stretch.

“We just felt it was wise to give some other people opportunity right now,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We also felt that by letting him go, he’s gonna have opportunity [with another team] also. This is not the kind of guy you want to keep on the bench for a long period of time. He’s not used to that. That’s not who he is.”

While Mayfield will probably continue as the Angels’ primary shortstop for the rest of the season, the club could pursue a plethora of potential long-term replacements at the position this offseason, when star shortstops such as Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Marcus Semien, Carlos Correa and Javier Báez will all be free agents.

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