'You've got to be resilient': Angels get payback on Ward's clutch hit

April 18th, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG -- It felt in a lot of ways like the Rays stole a win from the Angels in extra innings on Tuesday, making multiple late comebacks after it looked like a sure victory for the Halos.

But it was the Angels’ turn to repay the favor on Wednesday, as they rallied in the ninth inning to overcome a one-run deficit in a wild 5-4 win at Tropicana Field. was the hero with the go-ahead RBI single, while brought home the tying run with a single to left that saw get thrown out at the plate.

Angels manager Ron Washington was proud of the way his team fought back in the win, especially after their disheartening defeat the night before. He called it a learning moment for his young club.

“You’ve got to be resilient and keep driving and we did,” Washington said. “Tonight was another hell of a ballgame, but this time we came out on top. We did a good job of experiencing what we went through last night and coming out there night and just trying to play the game and take it to them. I think we showed what we’re made of.”

The Angels couldn’t have done it without Ward, who picked up three more hits and is batting .312 with six homers and 21 RBIs in 18 games this year. The Rays had to pick their poison in the ninth, as they intentionally walked Mike Trout to get to Ward with Rendon at second and two outs.

Trout has the highest OPS in Tropicana Field history at 1.093 and homered in the first inning to reach a tie for the MLB lead with eight blasts on the year. So it’s hard to blame the Rays for the decision, but Ward was glad they made it. He looked for a fastball from closer Pete Fairbanks and got one and punched it to right to score Rendon from second.

“In that situation, it kind of surprised me, but being behind Mike, I know that's gonna happen,” Ward said. “And I want them to pay for that decision. I take it a little personal. I’m just glad I was on the right end of it today.”

But on the other side of it, Fairbanks was incredibly frustrated after allowing the go-ahead runs to the Angels.

“I thought it generally sucked,” Fairbanks said. “I didn't think it was a specific suck. I thought it was like an all-encompassing type of suck. So we're gonna try to rectify that, but for right now, I'm gonna be pretty pissed about it.”

The Angels staged the comeback after reliever Hunter Strickland gave up a go-ahead two-run blast to Amed Rosario with two outs in the eighth. But the Angels again showed their ability to battle through adversity.

The Rays turned to Fairbanks in the ninth but the Angels started a rally after Nolan Schanuel picked up his third hit of the night with a one-out single. Zach Neto followed with a walk and the Angels brought in Jo Adell to pinch-run for Schanuel.

It proved to be a wise decision, as Adell stole third base and Neto later stole second to put two runners in scoring position for Rendon, who has been red-hot at the plate after a slow start to the season. Rendon came through with a single to left field and the Angels initially took the lead, as Neto was ruled safe on a close play at home. The call, however, was overturned to make it tied with two outs.

But it was another key hit for Rendon, who has been heating up since his 0-for-19 start to the season. He’s hitting .354 with three RBIs over his last 11 games and is starting to look more like his old self.

“He was really impactful on the game tonight,” Washington said. “I think as we continue to play baseball, and he continues to get at-bats, who he is will show up.”

Strickland went back out for the ninth and this time he was able to turn in a scoreless inning to pick up the win. He said he was hoping for the opportunity to redeem himself after giving up the homer and believes the Angels can build on their unlikely win.

“Last night was a long night and it was a battle for both teams,” Strickland said. “It was fun but we didn't come out on top. But to be able to bounce back and continue fighting was a good time and I think it's gonna carry us a long way.”