December 9, 2022

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3 takeaways from the Angels' first 6 games

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ANAHEIM — After 10 seasons in the Majors and 305 career games, Angels catcher Max Stassi finally got his chance to come through with his first walk-off at-bat on Tuesday against the Marlins at Angel Stadium.

Stassi helped the Angels to a 4-3 walk-off win with one out in the ninth on an RBI fielder’s choice to Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas that scored the speedy Tyler Wade from third base. Rojas couldn’t field Stassi’s grounder cleanly, allowing Wade to score after he stole second base and reached third on a wild pitch from reliever Anthony Bender.

“First career [walk-off] right there, so it felt great, especially going into an off-day tomorrow,” Stassi said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to get that run in and I got it done.”

The win helped the Angels to a two-game sweep over Miami, as they improved to 3-3 to end their first homestand of the year. Here are three takeaways from those six games:

1. The starting pitching has been solid
The rotation was the Angels’ biggest question mark heading into the season, but all six starters fared well against the Astros and Marlins. Lefty Patrick Sandoval was the latest, throwing four solid innings against Miami on Tuesday. He gave up one unearned run and walked three but struck out six.

Angels starters were limited to roughly 75-80 pitches in their first turn through the rotation, but they combined to post a 1.91 ERA with 28 strikeouts and 12 walks in an American League-leading 28 1/3 innings. Sandoval walked the bases loaded in the second but was otherwise solid.

“It’s been awesome, everybody is throwing strikes,” Sandoval said. “Well, except for me, of course. But just everyone is attacking. It’s been fun to watch.”

The revamped bullpen has had to pitch more innings because the starters haven’t gone deep into games with their limited pitch counts, and the results have been more of a mixed bag. Reliever Ryan Tepera gave up two crucial homers in the loss on Opening Day, the bullpen gave up eight runs in the seventh inning Friday, then Mike Mayers served up a game-tying two-run homer to Jazz Chisholm Jr. in the seventh inning on Tuesday.

But Tepera did bounce back after his tough outing and the Angels got two scoreless innings from Oliver Ortega and 1 1/3 scoreless frames from Jimmy Herget in the series finale. Closer Raisel Iglesias threw a scoreless ninth to get the win.

“Ortega did a nice job and Herget did, too,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Mike had a little bit of a tough time, but his stuff was better. [Aaron] Loup and Tepera have been outstanding. And Iggy is Iggy. The other guys, we need to get them out there at the right times. But they look good.”

2. Errors and miscues have hurt the Angels
Outfielder Jo Adell has had a rough start to the year defensively, misplaying a double and making an errant throw on Opening Day, while also making a critical error that led to a run on Tuesday.

With two outs in the third inning, Bryan De La Cruz hit a routine single into right field, but it got by Adell, allowing Garrett Cooper to score from first. De La Cruz reached third on the play, but Sandoval stranded him by getting Jesús Sánchez to fly out to left to end the inning.

“I don’t know if it snaked or just bounced,” Maddon said. “He might’ve come after it too hard given the circumstances. That’s what I saw.”

The Angels have made four errors through six games, including two on Tuesday, as Anthony Rendon also made an error on a grounder in the seventh. But Maddon believes the infield defense has held its own, especially behind starters Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen, who induced a plethora of ground balls.

“The infield defense has been outstanding,” Maddon said.

3. Big bats have yet to get going
The Angels went 3-3 despite Shohei Ohtani (.160 batting average), Mike Trout (.200) and Rendon (.118) mostly scuffling at the top of the lineup. Maddon pointed out that others such as Brandon Marsh and Adell came through on Monday, while it was Jack Mayfield who had an RBI triple and walked in the ninth to spark the rally on Tuesday.

Rendon also smacked a two-run homer in the sixth to give the Angels the lead and Maddon said he’s not concerned about any of his superstars this early in the season.

“Rendon looks fine to me,” Maddon said. “I watch things like his balance and his bat speed. He’s going to start squaring them up and get really hot. You’ve seen it before. And Mikey is real close. Ohtani, I’m not worried about him. The rest of them, I like the mix and the group supports itself well.”

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