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Walsh extends HR streak, lifts Halos in 11th

@RhettBollinger
September 13, 2020

Through the first 105 plate appearances of his career dating back to last season, Angels rookie first baseman Jared Walsh had hit just one home run. But something clicked for Walsh with his first blast of the season on Sept. 4, and he's been rolling ever since. Walsh came through

Through the first 105 plate appearances of his career dating back to last season, Angels rookie first baseman Jared Walsh had hit just one home run.

But something clicked for Walsh with his first blast of the season on Sept. 4, and he's been rolling ever since. Walsh came through yet again in a big way on Saturday, homering in his fourth straight game with a go-ahead three-run shot off Rockies right-hander Tyler Kinley in the 11th inning.

Box score

It gave the Angels a 5-2 win at Coors Field as they improved to 3-5 in extra innings this year. It also kept them 4 1/2 games back of the second-place Astros with 13 games remaining. Walsh is also one game away from tying Bobby Bonds for the club record of homering in five straight games.

"It's been pretty exciting," Walsh said. "I want to savor this moment, and I think it's something that I'm gonna hold on to for a long time and cherish, regardless of how long my career goes. I'll get ready to play tomorrow and see how it goes."

The Angels will be going for the series victory.

Walsh, who contracted COVID-19 before the start of the season, was 0-for-13 to open the year and didn't get his first hit until September. But he's been surging this month, hitting .387 (12-for-31) with five homers, two doubles, a triple and 12 RBIs in nine games.

Angels manager Joe Maddon has sensed a boost in confidence from Walsh and has described Walsh’s hands as electric. Walsh, 27, flashed legitimate power in the Minor Leagues, hitting a combined 29 blasts across three levels in 130 games in 2018 and 36 homers in 98 games at Triple-A Salt Lake last year.

“He has really good hands,” Maddon said. “The way he works the end of the bat is honestly an elite method, as far as I'm concerned. When he came up the first time, I don't know, just a little uncomfortable. He was not himself in a sense. He was nervous, it seemed. And all of a sudden, he comes back and chills out, he’s going up there and he's doing what he does during batting practice.”

Walsh admitted that he did have some nerves early this season, as he didn’t have an established role. He was competing with Albert Pujols, Tommy La Stella and Matt Thaiss for playing time, but he now appears likely to be the club’s regular first baseman down the stretch.

"I was pretty nervous," Walsh said. "But I'm pretty sure even if I were playing in a beer league softball game, I'd have some nerves. I think it’s just a matter of opportunities. I've been lucky and have been on a little bit of a roll lately, so I've been able to play.”

Walsh is also playing his way into a potential starting role at first base next year as well. Pujols, 40, remains under contract through next season, but he has found himself in more of a part-time role this year.

Pujols did make some history on Saturday with an RBI double to left. It was nearly his 660th career homer, which would’ve moved him into a tie for fifth place with Willie Mays on the all-time list. But Pujols had to settle for passing Craig Biggio for fifth on the all-time doubles list with 669.

Walsh, though, is settling in as the potential first baseman of the future and has the rest of the season to continue to try to make a positive impression.

"He's got power, man, power to all fields," Maddon said. "His hands are that good. It's no big secret as to why he could do what he's been doing. With good health and just maintaining some real simple mechanical issues, he could do this for a while."

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.