Angels 2020 memorable moments: A handful of notable feats in a forgettable season
Little about the 2020 Angels was not atrocious. The pitching staff had one of the worst ERAs in franchise history. The fielders produced one of the worst defensive ratings in the league. The team had a 26-34 record and missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year. The general manager was fired.
Yet some good mixed in with the bad. Here are 10 moments that stand out from a failed season.
TROUT TAPS INTO DAD STRENGTH
Mike Trout didn’t produce a steady enough campaign to pose a threat in the MVP race. But for a few weeks, he seemed even otherworldly. Trout returned from paternity leave in early August after the birth of his first child, Beckham, and bashed eight homers in his first 11 games back.
During the streak, Trout said, “People ask me about this dad power, and I guess it’s a thing. I don’t feel any different. The only thing different is going home and seeing your kid, which is pretty exciting. There’s no better feeling than being a father, I’ll tell you that.”
Much of the Angels’ confidence in their rotation hinged on a healthy Shohei Ohtani, who was nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery. But Ohtani bombed in his return to the mound, giving up three consecutive walks, three hits and five runs on July 26.
Immediately following his next start, Ohtani complained of soreness in his surgically repaired pitching arm. He was shut down from throwing for the rest of the season, having pitched only 1⅔ innings. Ohtani didn’t inspire confidence at the plate either. He was relegated to a part-time role and batted .190.
PUJOLS CHASES, PASSES MAYS
As the Angels plummeted toward the division cellar in August, Albert Pujols skidded too. He hit a home run Aug. 4 to position himself one blast from catching Hall of Famer Willie Mays as No. 6 on the all-time home run list. When he finally reached the goal 93 plate appearances later, even Mays couldn’t help but poke fun at Pujols. Mays messaged Pujols the words, “What took you so long?” after Pujols hit his 660th homer in an empty Coors Field on Sept. 13. Pujols passed Mays five days later and finished the season with 662 home runs.
Former Milwaukee Brewers reliever Álex Claudio, who appeared in 239 games over the last four seasons, has agreed to a one-year deal with the Angels.
TROUT PASSES SALMON
The August barrage helped Trout do something the Angels’ last career lifer couldn’t: hit 300 homers.
During a sweltering doubleheader in September, Trout crushed a 93-mph fastball to the opposite field for his 15th homer of the season and the 300th of his career. The two-run blast secured Trout’s position atop the franchise charts, which fellow Angels icon Tim Salmon had held for nearly 14 years.
Before several defensive blunders and a discouraging offensive start marred his rookie season, outfielder Jo Adell debuted with promise Aug. 4. He began the year ranked as the league’s second-best prospect by Baseball America and sixth-best by MLB.com Pipeline. The last Angels minor leaguer to receive that much hype was Trout.
In Adell’s first plate appearance, he beat out a slow grounder to the left side of the infield, sprinting to first at a rate of 30.4 feet per second. It was the same kind of elite speed Trout displayed when he dropped a bunt in July 2011 with the intent of sacrificing himself, only to beat the pitcher’s throw and record his first hit.
BUNDY THROWS A COMPLETE GAME
Dylan Bundy, a one-time phenom and former first-round draft pick, threw the Angels’ first complete game in more than two years. During the Aug. 6 outing, he retired the Mariners in order five times. Bundy became the Angels’ most consistent starter in his first season in Anaheim, finishing with a 6-3 record and 3.29 ERA.
RENDON REBOUNDS FROM HORRID START
Prized newcomer Anthony Rendon had never assembled as bad a 12-game stretch in six years as a fixture of the Washington Nationals lineup as he did his first 12 games after signing a seven-year, $245-million contract to play in Anaheim. He opened the season four for 39. .
His fortunes flipped with a two-hit performance against the Athletics on Aug. 10. Over his next 62 plate appearances, he tallied 27 hits and 13 RBIs. Rendon finished with a 151 OPS+, the second-highest of his career.
FLETCHER REDEFINES ‘SEEING-EYE HIT’
David Fletcher, a burgeoning star, is listed at 5 feet 9, making it difficult for him to hit the elevated fastball pitchers love throwing these days. Not that height has ever stopped him from trying. Oakland’s Mike Fiers threw him a two-strike fastball roughly at eye level for a crouching Fletcher, who hit it for a double.
Howie Kendrick, who played most of his major league career with the Angels before going on to play for the Dodgers and help the Washington Nationals win the World Series, has retired.
UNEXPECTED SOURCES IMPRESS
The Angels made a late surge for the playoffs, going 14-8 to start September and keep themselves in the race until the final weekend of the season. Three breakout performances undergirded their efforts.
There was first baseman Jared Walsh, a former 39th-round pick who batted .471 during an eight-game stretch in early September. At one point, he homered in four straight games. He was named the American League player of the month after hitting nine home runs and driving in 26 runs over 22 games.
There also was utility player Taylor Ward, the Angels’ first-round pick in the 2015 draft that also produced Walsh. He hit .350 during the final month.
And there was Mike Mayers, a waiver claim who solidified himself as one of the Angels’ most reliable relievers. The right-hander assembled a scoreless streak of 19 innings over 14 games before giving up two runs to the Dodgers in his final appearance.
ANGELS TAKE A STAND
Scheduling conflicts prevented the Angels from joining the Dodgers and other MLB clubs that refused to play in protest of racial injustice and police brutality after Jacob Blake was shot by Wisconsin police in August. But in their first home game following the shooting, four Black players on the Angels and seven on the Mariners linked arms during the national anthem. Justin Upton, Brian Goodwin, Adell and Keynan Middleton were joined on the field by Angels teammates Trout, Fletcher and Rendon.
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