Tommy La Stella was unable to finish the last game he started for the Angels. The All-Star infielder was carried off the field after fracturing his right tibia when he fouled a ball off his shin in the sixth inning of a July 2 game at Texas.
It is the bitter taste of an injury that sidelined him for almost three months and torpedoed a breakout year that La Stella hopes to rinse out of his mouth by returning for this weekend’s season-ending series against Houston.
The Angels were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, but La Stella hit on the field, ran the bases and fielded grounders again Tuesday in anticipation of playing two or three games — probably as the designated hitter — against Houston.
“It’s important for me to go out there and get the last visual going into the off-season,” La Stella said before Tuesday night’s victory over the Oakland Athletics. “I want to be in a game, be out on the field, see the pitcher, go through game reps, and have that be the last thing I remember.”
La Stella, a former Chicago Cubs utility player who hit 10 homers in 396 games in his first five big league seasons, hit .300 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs in 78 games for the Angels. He was voted by players as an All-Star reserve but was on crutches for the July 9 game at Cleveland.
“I took some steps in the right direction personally,” La Stella said, “The injury doesn’t negate that.”
La Stella, 30, will be eligible for arbitration this winter, and the Angels are expected to retain him. As disappointing a season as it has been for the Angels, La Stella hopes to end on a high note.
“He would like to get on the field before the season ends and kind of bring some closure to it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Obviously, the games don’t have a ton of meaning, but I think for him they’re more meaningful.”
The Angels embraced the role of spoiler Tuesday night, scoring three runs in the fifth inning for a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the A’s. The three teams in contention for the two AL wild-card berths are separated by one game, with Oakland leading Tampa Bay by a half-game and Cleveland by one game.
Khris Davis hit a two-run homer off Angels starter Dillon Peters in the fourth, but Taylor Ward and Matt Thaiss sparked the fifth-inning rally with singles.
David Fletcher hit a one-out RBI single to center, his third hit of the game, Brian Goodwin dunked a bloop RBI double and Albert Pujols hit a sacrifice fly to give the Angels a 3-2 lead.
Relievers Noe Ramirez, Adalberto Mejia, Ty Buttrey and Hansel Robles combined for four scoreless, one-hit innings, with Robles getting his 23rd save and increasing his scoreless streak to 17 1/3 innings in 15 games since Aug. 17.
Shohei Ohtani, the American League rookie of the year in 2018, was disappointed with his second season, and not just because it was cut short by surgery to repair a congenital issue in his left kneecap Sept. 13.
“I felt like I could have put together a lot better season,” Ohtani said through an interpreter Tuesday. “I felt like I was going through struggles that lasted a little too long. It wasn’t what I imagined, especially with the team situation.”
Ohtani, the two-way star who was relegated to designated hitter while he recovered from Tommy John surgery, hit .286 with an .848 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 106 games.
But he slumped after the All-Star break, batting .231 with a .670 OPS, one homer and five RBIs in 25 games in which the Angels went 10-15 and fell out of playoff contention.
“Right after the All-Star break our team was in a good spot to make a playoff run,” Ohtani said. “That’s when my struggles really started. I couldn’t really help the team win. It kind of killed our postseason chances.”
Recovery time for Ohtani’s surgery to repair a bipartite patella, a rare condition that occurs when the bones in the kneecap do not fuse after birth, is eight to 12 weeks. Ohtani expects to resume his throwing program in December and return as a two-way player next season.
Broadcaster Mark Langston, who suffered a heart-related medical emergency at Minute Maid Park on Friday night, underwent a procedure to have a defibrillator inserted in his chest in Houston on Tuesday, according to broadcast partner Terry Smith. Langston, 59, suffered a ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening heart rhythm that can be triggered by a heart attack. The former Angels pitcher is expected to be released from the hospital Wednesday and return home Saturday. … Catcher Max Stassi, acquired from Houston in July, will undergo surgery on his right hip Monday with an expected recovery time of four to six months. … The Angels claimed infielder Kean Wong, the younger brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, off waivers from Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Wong, 24, hit .287 with 32 homers and 299 RBIs in seven minor league seasons.