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After meltdown, Angels’ Raisel Iglesias has transformed into a shutdown king

Angels relief pitcher Raisel Iglesias gestures after a win over Boston on June 9.
Angels reliever Raisel Iglesias gestures to the sky after a 5-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox on June 9 at Angel Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There’s a familiar sight that comes as Raisel Iglesias works to complete a save: Angels fans rise, cheering him through his final batter of the game. Iglesias secures the out, then turns and pauses on the mound. He looks to the sky and both arms raise up above his head in victory.

It’s a simple celebration for the closer who dominated almost every team he faced in June.

Fans at Angel Stadium saw it Wednesday. Iglesias faced four batters — Leury Garcia grounded out, Josh Harrison struck out, Seby Zavala walked and Tim Anderson struck out on three pitches.

Iglesias, 32, pitched in 10 games in June, giving up six hits and four runs in 10 1/3 innings while striking out 16. The right-hander’s numbers would have been even better if not for a meltdown in his first appearance of the month.

After a 27-17 start, the Angels have slipped under .500 because of issues with their hitting and pitching that even Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani can’t overcome.

On June 5 in Philadelphia, Iglesias entered the game in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and one out. After striking out Rhys Hopkins, Iglesias gave up a grand slam to Bryce Harper to tie the score at 6-6. The Angels scored in the ninth, but Iglesias gave up two singles in the bottom of the inning and was replaced by Jimmy Herget with two outs. Bryson Stott hit a three-run home run off Herget, making Iglesias the loser and resulting in the Angels’ 11th consecutive defeat.

In his nine other appearances in June, Iglesias gave up one run and three hits. No one has gotten a hit or a run off him in his last six games.

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“He slowed down just a little bit throughout his delivery,” Angels pitching coach Matt Wise said of Iglesias. “He can get a little bit quick. And so he just slowed down just a touch and ever since the Philly outing he’s been just like he was for the large majority of last year.”

Last season, Iglesias finished 11th in voting for the Cy Young Award after striking out 103 batters over 70 innings and converting 34 of 39 save chances in 65 games. In the offseason, he re-signed with the Angels for four years and $58 million.

Shohei Ohtani extended his scoreless streak to 21 2/3 innings while recording 11 strikeouts in the Angels’ 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

“He’s impressive almost every time he’s out there, just because of the quality of the three pitches that he throws from multiple arm slots,” Wise said. “There’s not a lot of people like him on planet Earth, I don’t think so. He’s a joy to watch.”

Iglesias mostly uses a four-seam fastball, a slider and a changeup to left-handers and a sinker to right-handers.

The Angels’ first win after 14 consecutive losses was secured on the back of Iglesias’ ninth inning, in which he delivered two strikeouts and induced a lineout against the Boston Red Sox on June 7.

“I’ve been through the rhyme and rhythm of the game,” Iglesias said in Spanish last week. “From here on out, it should be better.”

In eight major league seasons, the first of six which were in Cincinnati, Iglesias has 155 saves with a 3.09 ERA and 622 strikeouts in 509 innings. He’s converted 15 of 17 save opportunities this season with a 3.62 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 27.1 innings.

Angels' Raisel Iglesias, pitching against the Nationals on May 6, has converted 15 of 17 save opportunities this season.
Raisel Iglesias, pitching against the Washington Nationals on May 6, has converted 15 of 17 save opportunities for the Angels this season.
(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

He’ll be able to continue pitching without interruption as long as his two-game suspension remains on appeal.

Iglesias received the suspension from MLB on Monday, one day after the Angels’ brawl with the Seattle Mariners. He wasn’t much involved in the brawl and said afterward he didn’t throw a punch. His actions went viral after he threw a box of sunflower seed packs like a shotput onto the third-base line, his response to getting ejected.

As far as his pitching abilities, it bodes well that those who watch him regularly regard him as the ace of the bullpen.

“If you polled all the pitchers in here and said, ‘Who has the best stuff they’ve really ever seen?’ It’s him by far,” Angels starter Patrick Sandoval said of Iglesias. “Every pitch is a weapon and he can throw it wherever he wants.

“We have all the confidence in the world in him that he’s going to be one of the most dominant closers in this league.”


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