'Confident' Fletch doubles thrice, fuels Halos

July 18th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- has been baseball’s hottest hitter for more than a month and he kept it going by extending his hit streak to 26 games -- with three doubles and five RBIs -- against the Mariners on Saturday at Angel Stadium.

Fletcher wasted no time extending his hit streak, as he smacked a leadoff double on a first-pitch cutter from All-Star lefty Yusei Kikichi in the first inning. It set the tone for the offense in a 9-4 win, as they roughed up Kikuchi for seven runs to back a strong showing from right-hander Alex Cobb. Fletcher became the first Angels player with three doubles in a game since Mike Trout's memorable 5-for-5 performance at Yankee Stadium on May 26, 2018.

“It's pretty fun to watch,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I've seen hot streaks, but not here in the big leagues like that. This has been going on for a while. It started in the nine-hole and he continued it in the one-hole. And he's hitting the ball hard. He's just a confident young man. I love the way he is. And it all plays into how well he plays this game.”

Maddon had to go back all the way to former Jets quarterback Joe Namath, who famously predicted he’d win Super Bowl III, to find a comparison for Fletcher’s confidence level.

“I think there’s Joe Namath and there’s David Fletcher,” Maddon said. “Two tremendous lore-like heroes. He has that thing. There’s nothing on that baseball field that he doesn’t think he can do. The lore of David Fletcher is beginning and I can only compare to Joe Cool."

Fletcher’s hitting streak goes back to June 13, but he’s been absolutely on fire over his last eight games. batting .595 (22-for-37). He has recorded seven multihit games during that span, and his 22 hits in eight games is the most by an Angels player since Tim Salmon had 21 in eight contests in 1994. Fletcher's hit streak also ranks second in Angels history, behind only Garret Anderson’s (28 games) in '98.

Fletcher was hitting just .255 through his first 60 games, but he's batted .454 (49-for-108) during his 26-game streak, helping him raise his average to .318 in 86 games this season. His .454 average over this hot stretch is the highest in the Majors by a wide margin, as the second-best is Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (.385). Coincidentally, Freeman is the last player in the Majors to have a hit streak longer than Fletcher's current mark, as he had a 30-game streak in '16.

"He pretty much got snubbed on the All-Star Game,” Cobb said. “And we hear a lot of very well-deserved MVP chants for Shohei [Ohtani], but that guy's creeping his way into that discussion as well. There's nobody I've played with that's more confident than he is."

Fletcher didn’t score after doubling in the first, but he helped the Angels to an early lead with a three-run double off Kikuchi with two outs in the second. Fletcher connected on an 0-1 slider at the top of the zone and drilled it into the left-field gap to unload the bases.

His third double was in the eighth off reliever Rafael Montero, as he came up with runners at second and third with one out, and laced a two-run two-bagger off the left-field wall. It came on an 0-1 sinker inside and off the plate.

“The balls he's almost hitting out, there is no fluke,” Maddon said. “The balls are coming off a lot. He's staying on a line. There are very few fly-ball outs right now. It's a line drive or hard ground ball like the first play of the game.”

Fletcher, though, was hardly the only Angels player with a big performance on Saturday, as Taylor Ward went 3-for-4 with a single, double, homer and three RBIs, while Jack Mayfield went 2-for-3 with a home run, double, walk and three runs scored. It all backed Cobb, who allowed one run on five hits and four walks over 6 2/3 innings to lower his ERA to 3.96 in 14 starts.

“Cobb was outstanding -- I think he’s led this pitching staff,” Maddon said. “And we had good at-bats up and down the lineup. Mayfield had a big homer and I loved the double down the right-field line. Taylor might've been the game-changer tonight. That part of the lineup kind of carried us."