The Los Angeles Angels' 14-game losing streak saw Mike Trout go down with an injury, the first-place lead evaporate and disappear, and their manager get fired. This losing streak had casualties.
Thursday night, the Angels stopped the streak. Nickelback didn't help, other superstitions didn't help, but Shohei Ohtani did. The Sho pitched 7 one-run innings while accumulating six strikeouts, including a 101-mph heater that he blew by Rafael Devers. Ohtani also did it with the bat, scorching a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 5th inning.
Quite an impressive sho of force from Ohtani. Despite being on the cover of "the" MLB video game, winning an MVP, and being a household MLB name, Ohtani's play is still underrated. When people compare Ohtani to another active player it's unfair because last night he also pitched seven innings and only allowed a run. He's such a baseball unicorn that the Babe Ruth comparisons aren't absurd—it's the only fair comparison.
Angels Break The Seal
Baseball is a team game, obviously. Ohtani didn't win the game all by his lonesome. He almost did but I digress.
Andrew Velazquez, buried in a 1-for-34 slump, smacked a 3-run home run that was 105 mph off the bat. Velazquez looked back at his bench as the ball sailed out of the park.
“I just wanted to see how they were feeling. I just wanted to see them celebrating. The energy was there. I wanted to get there as quick as I could.”
Angels manager Phil Nevin, all of two days into his new job, spoke gratefully.
“Everybody exhaled, took a deep breath. It’s been the same attitude, it’s been the same atmosphere in the clubhouse. And when you come in after the game (during the losing streak) and you see the pain on their faces, I know it’s hurting them. These last two weeks were painful for them. Painful for everybody. But when you see that care in your players, that means a lot.”
Ohtani himself sang the same grateful tune about the ending of their losing streak.
“I’m not the only one that was going through this. The team, as a whole, we were all down, kind of struggling. I had a couple chances to stop the losing streak on the mound, but I wasn’t able to do it. I was glad to be able to do it (Thursday).”
The Losing Streak's Toll
This streak was brutal for the Angels. The LA Times were calling the Angels the best team in southern California, the Angels were looking like the answer to the Astros stranglehold on the AL West, but it was all evaporated. They scored one run or fewer in six losses. There were seven one-run losses. The Angels had a stretch of more than 300 plate appearances where they hit only one home run. The bullpen leads in six games. It was painful to watch, and certainly more painful to experience as a member of the Angels. Velazquez even said that the win felt like a playoff win. The Angels celebrated in a way that would normally earn them derision. After this streak, though, I honestly don't think anyone should blame them.