Offense, C-Rod, Iglesias: 3 early takeaways

April 7th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- The Angels’ first homestand of the season was a success, going 4-2 in front of home crowds at Angel Stadium, and it came against a pair of playoff contenders in the White Sox and Astros.

The two series had a playoff atmosphere despite it being so early, as the roughly 13,000 fans at each game brought plenty of passion -- and also their fair share of creativity with Houston in town for a two-game set.

The Angels showed they can compete against two of the toughest clubs in the league and won four of their first six games for the third time in five seasons. But now they must build on that confidence, as it doesn’t get much easier with a road trip against a tough Blue Jays club and the upstart Royals before coming back home to host the Twins, who have won back-to-back American League Central titles.

With plenty to like about the club’s first homestand, here are three takeaways from those six games:

1) Offense doesn’t quit

The Angels were the comeback kings, as three of their four wins were late come-from-behind victories. The Halos scored an incredible 14 combined runs in the eighth and ninth innings, a mark that trails only the Astros (15) so far this season. Even in the Angels' 12-8 loss to the White Sox on Friday, they were down 7-1 and made it a one-run game before the bullpen faltered in the ninth.

The offense has been able to get it done because the club is getting help from more than just its superstars like Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon. First baseman Jared Walsh and catcher Max Stassi are both off to hot starts, as they're out to show that their breakouts last year weren't a fluke. Walsh had several clutch hits, including a game-tying RBI triple in a 5-3 win over the White Sox on Saturday and a two-homer performance, capped by a walk-off three-run blast, in a 7-4 win the following day.

It also helps that Ohtani has been healthy enough to serve as the designated hitter in five of the six games, and he even served as a pinch-hitter in the lone game he wasn’t in the lineup. Ohtani is slashing .300/.333/.700 and he also threw as hard as 101 mph in his start on Sunday.

2) Is C-Rod the next K-Rod?

Right-hander Chris Rodriguez has been absolutely electric out of the bullpen, posting a 1.93 ERA with six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, and he is giving the club a jolt -- just like Francisco Rodriguez did early in this career. And the former has done it despite previously not pitching above Class A Advanced and being limited to just 9 1/3 innings since 2017 because of back issues.

But Rodriguez is healthy and has become somewhat of a secret weapon for manager Joe Maddon, who admitted even he has been surprised by how dominant Rodriguez has looked.

The Angels will continue to use him for multi-inning relief stints in key situations, but it'll be interesting to see if they ever decide to stretch him out as a starter again. He's been using all four of his pitches, so he has the stuff to start, but there's a chance they might use his time in the bullpen to limit his innings this year, then bring him back as a starter in 2022.

3) Closer Iglesias off to a slow start

The Angels acquired closer Raisel Iglesias in an offseason trade with the Reds in an attempt to bolster their bullpen, considering he’s been one of the better closers in baseball over the last four seasons. But Iglesias has said in the past that he doesn’t like pitching in non-save situations, and so far, he’s scuffled in those scenarios.

Iglesias pitched well in a save situation on Opening Day, putting together a 1-2-3 ninth inning, but he came in for the ninth with the Angels down a run on Friday and promptly gave up two runs and recorded just one out. He came in for a five-out save on Sunday, but overthrew third base for a run-scoring error that gave him his first blown save of the season. And on Tuesday, he entered a tie game in the ninth and quickly gave up a two-run homer to Carlos Correa in an eventual 7-5 loss.

Add it all up and Iglesias has a 9.00 ERA in four innings and he's allowed two homers after giving up just one in 23 innings last season.

Maddon said that Iglesias remains the club's closer, but he'll have to turn it around in a hurry, or the Angels could look to another reliever like Mike Mayers.