Arlington, Texas – It was a real-time disaster on the back of what is arguably the most important win of the season.
First, the news came before the game started that rookie junior Zach Nieto was on the list with a slanted strain, an injury that manager Phil Niven rated as “major”.
Brandon Drury then decided to drop his appeal of a one-game suspension due to discussing a Monday night call. That left the Angels with one man short on the bench.
Then the game started. Anthony Rendon was hit on his left wrist at 85 mph. The injury left him unable to swing a bat in subsequent plate appearances.
The next batter, Gio Orchilla—who was already dealing with a sick back—landed to first base in an attempt to hit a double play. He was knocked out of the game later in the half with a groin injury.
In one day, the Angels’ fold took a massive hit.
“Get out of here before someone else gets hurt,” Nevin joked when asked about the condition of the injured players. “We’ve talked about it…. It’s going to take all of us. Even more than we started with in the room.”
Thursday’s 5-3 victory itself was massive for the Angels. In a series with major implications, the Angels came to Texas and defeated the three-time first-place Rangers in four opportunities to pick up two games in the standings. They are only 4.5 games out of first place in the AL West and behind the Yankees for third wild card. There are 36 games until the trade deadline.
Shohei Ohtani threw on the mound—six runs pitched, two allowed—and at the plate. He hit a corresponding third homer of the series, all of which went into the second. All of which can stop and admire.
“It’s obviously a big win,” Otani said. “They’re in first place. All the boys are excited because of that. We’ve come out on top and I think the momentum will continue.”
How things will look now is a great question for angels. The stadium – the hard core of this 39-32 team – is now a question mark.
Neto’s injury hurts. He was heading towards being considered for this year’s rookie. The 22-year-old had a 7-of-15 tear at the plate, which included three home runs. He made several amazing defensive plays in the thriller Extra Monday Angels. There’s no clear timeline for when he’ll return, though Nevin said it’s not expected to be long. However, oblique injuries can be unpredictable.
“There’s nothing disappointing about that,” Neto said. “I did a good job here. It’s just a matter of being able to keep my head in the right place constantly. When I come back, I’ll be better than I was.”
Earlier this season, the Angels got a glimpse of potential catcher Logan Ohope. He was the new kid before Nito could even love the Anaheim minions. He then tore his shoulder, an injury that would have potentially ended his season.
This is partly why Neto gets stung. Rarely has this organization created the best young talent. Here were two players who embodied transformation. Right now, both are on the shelf.
“As strange as it sounds, I think we both benefit from being on IL at the same time,” O’Hoppe said. “I’ll be there with him the whole way. Hopefully we can feed off each other.”
Urshela was on crutches after the match and admitted that he was likely to lose time. Rendon was having an X-ray of his wrist and was not available to treat the severity of his injury.
Regardless, it leaves the Angels in a tough spot on the field. David Fletcher is on the bereavement list dealing with a family matter. The Angels still have players Michael Stefanik and Levan Soto on their 40-man roster.
It’s an interesting juxtaposition of angels. They are seven games over .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2015. There is legitimate optimism that they will be playoff contenders. On the flip side, there’s a lot of uncertainty about where this team goes with three potential players a day going to IL in the space of 24 hours.
Rendon was burned during the match. He couldn’t swing the bat. And Nevin then quipped that Rendon couldn’t defeat either – not because of injury, but because of lack of training. He stayed on defense because the only other option would have been to be a body warmup, not a major league player.
Getting Drury back on Friday will help. And Jared Walsh’s break in the slump of 0 for 25 with a sharp double was a positive sign, although his ability to hit at a high level to shake off his nervous symptoms was clearly still a work in progress.
For now, the Angels will fly to Kansas City to take on baseball’s worst Royals, losing by nine in a row.
Who is up against Kansas City is still a question mark. But for now, the Angels can appreciate just how far they stretch, winning 9 of 11. A team that looks really competitive against the best opponent in their division.
“That’s a really good team out there,” Nevin said. “Really good record. They are talented. They are well trained. It’s a really good team. the importance of it? We have a lot of guys who believe in this room.”
• Jacob Webb was the Angels champion Thursday night. After Carlos Estevez walked his first three batters to start the ninth, Webb was called off the base. The only issue? Webb was not warm. He looked disappointed. However, he entered the match and escaped unscathed to win 5-3.
• O’Hoppe said Thursday that he feels no pain in his shoulder, despite his expectations. When asked if he felt he had a good chance of playing this year, O’Hoppe said, “I do. Yeah, I think four months is really realistic.” He said they would be smart and not rush him. O’Hoppe has been out for nearly two months, and a four-month recovery will see him back in late August.
(Top photo of Anthony Rendon after being hit by a pitch during halftime Thursday: Sam Hodde/Getty Images)
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