Youth movement leads Angels to first home sweep of season

June 6th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- It was another example of the club's youth movement continuing to grow, and this time, it helped lead the Angels to their first home sweep of the season.

Right-hander threw six strong innings and hard-throwing relief prospect recorded a hold, while the Angels received homers from and in a 3-2 win over the Padres on Wednesday night at Angel Stadium. Soriano, 25, is the oldest of the bunch, while Neto and Joyce are both 23 and Schanuel is 22. All four have the chance to be a huge part of the club's future and their potential was on full display in the series finale.

"It shows a lot and that we can hang with anyone," Neto said. "It doesn't matter how young our team is. We have the right guys in this locker room to go out there every day and show what we got. But it gives us a lot of confidence and hopefully gives our fans confidence we can win at home."

The Angels entered the three-game set losing nine of 10 and with an MLB-worst 7-21 record at home this season. But they bounced back with just their second sweep of the year and their first at Angel Stadium. They hadn't previously won two games in a row at home all year and picked up their first home sweep since taking three straight against the Yankees from July 17-19, 2023.

"The whole three games were outstanding with the way the guys went out there and performed," Angels manager Ron Washington said. "The pitching was outstanding the whole series."

Schanuel helped set the tone early with a leadoff homer off Padres ace Dylan Cease in the first inning. It was the eighth homer of the year for Schanuel and his second leadoff blast. It was also a good sign for Schanuel, who has been dealing with left thumb soreness since May 22 and didn't play over the weekend against the Mariners.

Neto, who was the hero with a go-ahead two-run double in the seventh inning of Tuesday's 4-2 win, gave the Angels some cushion with a two-run blast off Cease in the second inning. It was the seventh homer of the year for Neto, who has been heating up offensively over the last month and went 2-for-3. He was excited to homer in the same game as Schanuel for the third time this year.

"That was pretty sick," Neto said. "It's not that we do it on purpose. But we both had a good plan against Cease and executed it and it worked out."

It helped back Soriano, who continued his impressive run in his first season as a starting pitcher in the Majors after pitching exclusively in relief last year. He went six frames, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits and a walk.

He only recorded two swings and misses and struck out one, but he made it work. He improved to 3-5 with a 3.64 ERA in 64 1/3 innings, including a 2.90 ERA over his last five starts. He was hurt by a throwing error from Taylor Ward in the sixth but otherwise was solid and pitched to contact with his power sinker.

"It feels great because I had a lot of ground balls to the infield and a lot of weak contact," Soriano said through interpreter Manny Del Campo. "The plan was to throw less pitches to each batter and I think it worked out."

It was an electric Joyce who stole the show while protecting a one-run lead in the eighth in his season debut. Joyce, the club's No. 4 prospect, allowed a leadoff single and threw a wild pitch but got out of the inning unscathed.

His fastball hit 103.3 mph and averaged 101.8 mph. His first fastball, registering 102.6 mph, went straight to the backstop before he recovered the rest of the way.

"The first pitch, he got his nervousness out, and then he started finding the strike zone," Washington said. "He challenged them. He didn't try to run from them. Just sat back and kept it in the strike zone. Get me if you can. And that was great."

Washington added he was proud of how his team played against the contending Padres and believes it can be a building block.

"It was a great three games against a good team," Washington said. "I think we proved we can play and now we need to find that consistency."