Anthony Rendon’s debut raises excitement level in Angels’ victory over Mariners
The last meaningful baseball Anthony Rendon played was in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series, in tension-filled Minute Maid Park, where the former Washington slugger hit a seventh-inning homer to snap Houston pitcher Zack Greinke’s shutout and spark a win that clinched the Nationals’ first-ever championship.
What a letdown Rendon’s Angels debut must have felt like Tuesday night, at least compared to that memorable late-October evening.
A typical Angel Stadium home opener, this wasn’t. There were no fans, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic forcing teams to open a shortened 60-game season in empty stadiums, but there was none of the traditional pomp and circumstance, either.
Teams did not assemble along the lines for pregame introductions, like they did in last week’s season openers. Players were scattered around the field when the national anthem began, some looking surprised when the song was announced.
About the only indication this was more than an ordinary game was the red-white-and-blue bunting draped on the club-level suites and the facing of the upper deck throughout the stadium.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday after suffering a left-ankle sprain against the Athletics on Monday.
It wasn’t the kind of pressure-packed atmosphere Rendon is known to thrive in, but the new Angels third baseman, who signed a seven-year, $245-million contract in December, made the most of it in a 10-2 win over Seattle.
Rendon, who missed the season-opening four-game series in Oakland because of an oblique injury, walked twice and scored once in his first four plate appearances before lining a two-run homer to left field in the eighth inning to cap his team’s scoring.
Max Stassi and Albert Pujols also did some heavy lifting, Stassi hitting a three-run homer to right for a 5-2 lead in the fourth and Pujols lining a solo shot to left in the fifth for career homer No. 657, moving him to within three of Willie Mays(660) for fifth place on the all-time list.
Leadoff man David Fletcher continued his torrid start with two singles, two walks and a run in five plate appearances, pushing his average to .556 (10 for 18) in five games
“It’s great whenever you have a game like we had with the offense clicking,” Rendon said. “Everyone says hitting is contagious, and it really is. Once you get that one guy going, and that one guy has been Fletch for the first five games, he gets us going and we just feed off that energy, we feed off those hits, and we kind of just had that tumbleweed effect tonight.”
Rendon’s hustle from first to second to beat Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager’s throw on Justin Upton’s third-inning infield single led to a run and a 2-0 lead.
“He got Justin an RBI and a hit—that’s a great hustle play on his part,” manager Joe Maddon said. “That is something you either have in your head before the ball is hit or you don’t. That’s why he was safe there.
“Those are the kinds of things we need to do, the kind of baseball we need to play on a nightly basis, to get where we want to be. And Anthony, he’s that kind of player. To put him behind [Mike Trout], he really lengthens our lineup.”
Rendon, who hit .319 with a 1.010 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 34 homers, 44 doubles and 126 RBIs in 2019, had a throwing error in the seventh, but he atoned for the miscue by lining a first-pitch slider from Zac Grotz over the low left-field wall in the eighth.
“I didn’t want to be too passive at the plate because I haven’t had too many at-bats over last week or so,” Rendon said. “The only way to get into my rhythm is to be aggressive in the zone. That was my thought process today, and I happened to connect with one, and it went over the fence, thankfully.”
With the usually smooth-fielding Rendon and four-time Gold Glove Award winner Andrelton Simmons at shortstop, the Angels expect the left side of their infield to be one of the best in baseball. But it will be at least another week and a half before Rendon and Simmons share an infield for a regular-season game.
With the Marlins putting their season on hold and the Phillies postponing games because of COVID-19, MLB players are being put in a very tough spot.
Simmons was placed on the 10-day injured list Tuesday because of a left-ankle sprain, and infielder Luis Rengifo was activated off the IL.
Simmons twisted his ankle on the back of the first-base bag while lunging to beat out an infield single in the ninth inning of Monday’s 3-0 loss at Oakland.
The Angels are confident he will return in 10 days.
“I actually walked out with him after [Monday’s game], and you could tell it was bothering him, but he was still very optimistic. you know, ‘I’ll be all right, give me a couple days,’ that kind of conversation,” manager Joe Maddon said. “... He was upbeat, if that’s possible, walking out of the ballpark yesterday.”
Simmons is a famously fast healer, returning in five weeks from a severe left-ankle sprain that was supposed to sideline him for eight weeks in 2019 and coming back in only 10 days from a right-ankle sprain he suffered in 2018.
“He’s a key part of our team — he’s probably the best defensive shortstop in the game and one of the best of all time — so any time you lose him, it’s gonna hurt a little bit,” said Fletcher, who replaced Simmons at shortstop Tuesday. “Hopefully we get him back soon.”
Observations from the Angels’ 10-2 win over the Mariners:
1. Laser beam: Shohei Ohtani, who appeared somewhat shaken by Sunday’s start in which he gave up five runs and failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in Oakland, had one hit and four strikeouts in 12 at-bats before banging an RBI double off the right-center-field wall in the sixth.
2. Damage control: Noe Ramirez entered in the fifth inning with runners on first and third, no outs and the Angels leading 5-1. The right-hander struck out Joseph Odom and got Shed Long to ground to first, a run scoring. Ramirez walked Evan White but got Kyle Lewis to ground back to the mound, ending the inning. Ryan Buchter, Mike Mayers, Jacob Barnes and Keynan Middleton followed with scoreless innings.
3. Slide rule: Patrick Sandoval is known for his changeup, but he actually threw his slider more times (17) than his changeup (11) and got five swinging strikes with the breaking ball.
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