Angels extend win streak and hold onto first place with four-game sweep of Guardians
Home runs are down and balls that are barreled up off the bat aren’t traveling as far, the combination of less lively baseballs and the humidors now being used in every stadium to store them suppressing offense across the league.
Joe Maddon, the old-school Angels manager who implores his team to “play like it’s 1985,” is here for it.
“I know the hitters aren’t going to agree with me, but I like a real game of baseball, not the video-game version,” Maddon said after the Angels completed a four-game sweep of the Cleveland Guardians with a 4-1 victory before 18,826 in Angel Stadium on Thursday.
“If you want to get more people interested in our game, play baseball. Do it all. Play all the components, all facets of the game, and I think that’s we’re doing right now. I didn’t know in spring training that the ball was going to react the way it is, but I hope it stays that way.”
The Angels can actually bang with the best of them. They ranked first in the American League in runs (95) and slugging percentage (.437) and second in home runs (25) entering Thursday.
But as they showed in extending their win streak to five, when their only extra-base hit was a hustle double and reigning AL most valuable player Shohei Ohtani had the day off, they are anything but one-dimensional.
They have speed throughout the lineup. They steal bases. They bunt. They hit-and-run. They go first-to-third on singles. They advance runners with outs. They pressure the defense.
Angels infielder David Fletcher, out since April 12 because of a left hip strain, declared himself ready to return for a seven-game road trip.
“That’s why I think we’re so special, because we can win games with homers, we can win playing small ball, we can manufacture runs, we run the bases well, we play good defense … we do it all,” infielder Tyler Wade said.
“We have a good pitching staff, bullpen and everyone’s pulling for each other. It’s a special group. It’s not selfish baseball. It’s fun, and it’s contagious.”
Wade, the speedster acquired from the New York Yankees last November, was in the middle of much of the action Thursday.
He followed Kurt Suzuki’s leadoff walk in the third with a grounder to pitcher Cal Quantrill, whose throw to second sailed into center field for an error.
No. 9 hitter Andrew Velazquez dropped a bunt between the mound and third but Cleveland second baseman Owen Miller dropped Quantrill’s low-but-catchable throw for an error at first, allowing the Angels to load the bases.
Taylor Ward got jammed by a 93-mph sinker but got enough of the pitch to bloop an RBI single to shallow center for a 1-0 lead. Brandon Marsh lined an RBI single to left, the first of his three hits, to make it 2-0. Velazquez scored on Mike Trout’s double-play grounder to make it 3-0.
The Angels pushed the lead to 4-1 in the seventh when Wade led off with a soft double to left-center, took third on Velazquez’s grounder to first and scored on Ward’s grounder to third.
“We have a lot of guys on this team who can do a lot of things,” Trout said. “We find different ways to beat teams besides the long ball. It’s fun to be a part of.”
The gritty Wade is having a blast. He said in spring training that he thought his style of play would “fit Maddon to a T,” and the first 20 games have only confirmed that assessment.
“Man, I love playing for Joe,” Wade said. “He makes me feel really comfortable and confident. Having a manager who believes in my style of play … it’s been great.”
The Angels didn’t need much offense with the pitching they got this week. Reid Detmers, showing much better fastball command, gave up one run and two hits in five innings, striking out four and walking one, and relievers Archie Bradley, Aaron Loup, Ryan Tepera and Raisel Iglesias each added scoreless innings.
Taylor Ward hit a grand slam to back up Shohei Ohtani’s pitching, but it’s a bunt single by Tyler Wade that shows the Angels’ attention to detail in 9-5 win.
In notching their first four-game sweep of Cleveland since July 28-30, 1997, in Cleveland, and first four-game sweep of Cleveland at home since May 13-16, 1982, the Angels limited the Guardians to seven runs.
The win, which completed a 5-2 homestand, pushed the Angels (13-7) six games over .500 for the first time since June 22, 2018.
“We’re talking about small ball a lot, but you can be more successful with that if you pitch well,” Maddon said. “If the other team’s scoring a lot of runs, you’ve got to throw the ball. When they’re not, you can hand it off and run more of a ground game.”
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