ANAHIME — After the Angels were shut out for only the fourth time this season by a disappointing loss Saturday, star duo Shuhei Ohtani quickly made sure it didn’t happen for the second straight game.
36th-ranked Otani crushed the MLB quarterback in the first half on Sunday to reignite a big day on offense, as Luis Renjevo also dug in deep twice and Andrew Velasquez had his first blast of the season in a 7-5 win over the Buccaneers at Angel Stadium. He completed a solid home run for the Angels, who went 6-3 to develop to 51-49.
“It was a nice stretch at home, for sure,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin. “The guys respond well. They understand that everything is still ahead.”
They won back-to-back series over the Yankees and Pirates after losing two of the three to the Astros outside of the All-Star break. The Angels will now look to ride that momentum on their three-city road trip to Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta as the August 1st trade deadline approaches. The Halos are four games behind the Blue Jays for their third and final AL Wild Card spot, making their three game in Toronto a crucial one for a team looking to avoid being a sellout and, thus, not move Ohtani.
“It’s like the playoffs now for us,” said Velasquez. “That’s why, going on this wild ride, winning this series was so important.”
Ohtani, who had been the subject of trade rumors if the Angels fell out of contention, was set to begin opening for that series in Toronto. He showed off his formidable power on Sunday with a low liner for a solo first-half blast off Pirates right-hander Mitch Keeler. Otani made the full count before hitting the cutter over the center field fence for his first homer since Monday. It left the bat at a low 19-degree shooting angle and traveled 410 feet, according to Statcast. He’s on track to hit 58 home runs this season.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a ball hit that way—maybe a golf ball,” Nevin said. “I thought he lined up in the middle. Really did. Or maybe he just skipped his head or hit the wall. But it just disappeared into the trees. Every day he does something different to impress you.”
His solo shot set the tone for the rebounding performance from the offense and tied the game after left fielder Tyler Anderson gave up a solo homer to Brian Reynolds in the opening frame. The Angels took the lead in the second on an RBI single from Eduardo Escobar and pulled away from the fifth by four runs.
Nevin said: “It was a big run for us and it was kind of for us last week because we’re playing so well. That’s why last night, when we left them loaded with nobody, it was a big game. But we responded really well.”
Velazquez and Rengifo connected on consecutive blasts to open the inning before Taylor Ward added an RBI single and Matt Thaiss delivered a sacrifice fly. Rengifo gave the Angels the insurance run with a solo shot by left-hander Angel Perdomo in the sixth. It was the third game of Renjevo’s career, and the second time he had shot from each side of the plate.
He was the last Angel to accomplish this feat when he did so on September 16, 2022, against the Mariners. Just like last season, Renjevo was heating up in the second half. 302/.388/.674 with five homers and eight RBIs in 15 games in July.
“The most important thing now is to try to help the team win and do my job,” said Rengifo. “We feel really good as a team. We just have to stick together. We just need to keep winning games. Our goal is to get to the playoffs.”
These extra runs turned out to be key, as Anderson returned for seventh at 86 pitches and a six-run lead, but gave up a single, a double and a walk before being sacked to reliever Jacob Webb. A run scored on an errant throw to Webb off Thaiss before Carlos Santana hit a two-run double to make it a two-run game. But the Angels shut it down the rest of the way with No. 23’s Carlos Estevez taking a hit with a scoreless ninth.
“It meant a lot, especially with the way we finished the first half,” Estevez said. “We found a way to get it to work during the homestay. We feel really good.”
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