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Shohei Ohtani hits two-run homer as Angels end skid with win over Red Sox

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani is congratulated in the dugout after hitting  a two-run home run against the Boston Red Sox.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a two-run home run against Boston.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The way the Angels were playing during their franchise-record 14-game losing streak, with breakdowns in every facet of the game and pressure mounting with every defeat, it seemed like it would take something extraordinary, something unexpected, for them to end their 2 1/2-week free fall.

They got both in Thursday night’s 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox before a crowd of 28,595 in Angel Stadium, the first provided by their two-way phenom and reigning American League most valuable player, the second by a 5-foot-9, 170-pound shortstop who is barely hitting his weight.

Shohei Ohtani gave up one run and four hits and struck out six — one with a 101-mph fastball, his hardest pitch of the season — in seven innings and hit a two-run home run in the fifth to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

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Shortstop Andrew Velazquez, mired in a one-for-34 slump that dropped his average to .175, then lined a three-run homer into the right-field seats in the sixth to give the Angels a 5-1 lead.

The Red Sox cut the lead to 5-2 on Alex Verdugo’s RBI single off reliever Ryan Tepera in the eighth, but closer Raisel Iglesias struck out two of three batters in the ninth to seal the Angels’ first victory since a 5-3 win over Texas on May 24, sparking a lengthy celebration in the clubhouse.

“I felt like we won a playoff game today,” Velazquez said. “A big relief. Got some momentum. It’s like tomorrow is a new season.”

Angels interim manager Phil Nevin has the inside track to remain on the job, but strong candidates abound internally and outside the organization.

June 8, 2022

The Angels have lost 18 of 22 games, falling from a first-place tie with Houston in the American League West on May 15 to nine games back, and they lost a manager when Joe Maddon was fired Tuesday. But at least the albatross of a 14-game skid is no longer hanging around their necks.

“Yeah, I think everybody exhaled, took a deep breath,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “I told these guys that for the last, what was it, 13 games, 14? They’ve come every day expecting to win. It’s been the same attitude, the same atmosphere in the clubhouse.

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“And when you come in after the game, you see the pain on their faces. I know it’s hurting them. And that means a heck of a lot to the staff, to myself, because they care. They really do. These last two weeks were painful for them.”

The win was meaningful for Nevin, the former Cal State Fullerton star. It was his first as a big-league manager, an occasion that Ohtani marked by giving him the game ball.

“I think his first win has more weight than my fourth win of the year,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “It’s always a special thing to get your first win as a manager.”

The Angels had gone 18 consecutive innings without a run and were trailing 1-0 in the fifth when Juan Lagares dunked a soft one-out single to center field off Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta and Ohtani drove a two-run homer to center.

Angels' Andrew Velazquez hits a three-run home run against the Boston Red Sox.
Angels’ Andrew Velazquez hits a three-run home run against the Boston Red Sox in the sixth inning at Anaheim Stadium on Thursday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It was the first homer by an Angel since Luis Rengifo’s solo shot in the seventh inning in Yankee Stadium on May 31, a span of eight-plus games and 315 plate appearances.

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Jo Adell, who doubled and singled in his first two at-bats, and Dillon Thomas both walked to open the bottom of the sixth. Hirokazu Sawamura replaced Pivetta and got Jack Mayfield to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Sawamura struck out Tyler Wade with a nasty split-fingered fastball for the second out, and after throwing a first-pitch ball to Velazquez, he got two swinging strikes with his splitter.

The right-hander then tried to blow a 1-and-2 fastball by Velazquez, but the switch-hitter turned violently on the 95.5-mph pitch and drove his third homer of the season 396 feet into the seats in right for a 5-1 lead.

“He’s got the nastiest splitter I’ve ever seen,” Velazquez said of Sawamura. “I figured I’d have a better chance to hit a fastball. I got lucky.”

Velazquez has hit only four homers in his career, but he was so sure this one was gone that he looked toward the Angels dugout before starting his trot.

“I just wanted to see how they were feeling,” Velazquez said. “I knew it was gone. I wanted to see them celebrate. The energy was there.”

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The Red Sox had snapped a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth on Bobby Dalbec’s sacrifice fly.

The Dodgers and Angels employ several announcers and analysts this season, a far cry from the days of Vin Scully and Chick Hearn.

June 8, 2022

Good news on Trout

The Angels got more good news after the game when Mike Trout, who missed his second straight game because of left-groin tightness, said he hopes to return to the lineup for Friday night’s game against the New York Mets.

“I felt good today, took some swings in the cage,” Trout said. “I’ll come in [Friday], move around, see how I feel, and hopefully it feels good enough to play.”

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