Sandoval bounces back nicely to wrap up Angels' sweep

April 3rd, 2024

MIAMI -- Six days ago, got shelled. In his first career Opening Day start on Thursday in Baltimore, he allowed the first three batters he faced to reach base (two walks and a single) before recording an out -- and two runs scored on that out.

Sandoval lasted just 1 2/3 innings, tossing 60 pitches while facing 14 batters and allowing five runs (three earned) on six hits. He struck out just two.

But, like the Angels bounced back after dropping their first two games of the season, so too did Sandoval.

The southpaw opened his second start of the season with four straight strikeouts, setting down the first six batters he faced en route to 5 2/3 innings in Los Angeles’ 10-2 win at loanDepot park on Wednesday that completed a three-game sweep.

“He was outstanding,” manager Ron Washington said. “He came out, he pounded the strike zone, he used all of his pitches, and he was very, very efficient early in the game. And then they started making him work a little bit, but he didn’t lose his desire. And that was very important.”

Sandoval got into some trouble in the third inning, when the Marlins got two runs across. It didn’t help that Sandoval took a comebacker off the top of his left foot in the second plate appearance of the inning. But still, he limited Miami to just the two runs and bounced back by striking out Bryan De La Cruz for the third out. He then faced the minimum in the fourth inning, walking a batter, but then inducing a double play to get out unscathed.

That was the general state of the game for Sandoval. There were jams for him to navigate, but he expertly limited the damage and allowed two runs on four hits and two walks after those first two speedy innings. He also struck out seven, including getting reigning NL batting champ Luis Arraez twice.

“I felt a lot better about that [start],” Sandoval said. “Put the ball in the zone and good things happen. … Fastball was in the zone more often than not, so usually that’s a good sign.”

Unlike on Opening Day, Los Angeles’ offense balled out. The Angels gave Sandoval some backing before he set foot on the mound, and they continued to grind against the Marlins’ pitching staff, much as they did through the first two games of the series.

“It just shows what our offense can do,” Taylor Ward said. “[Sandoval] is one of the best pitchers in the league, so it’s always good to play behind him [when he’s shoving].”

The runs came from up and down the lineup on Wednesday. Los Angeles got two runs across in the first (Luis Rengifo kicked off the game with a double) and continued to score multiple runs every other inning: Two runs crossed the plate in the third, two in the fifth and three in the seventh. Ward (3-for-5 with two RBIs) cranked his third homer of the season in the eighth to put the Angels up by a whopping eight runs, while Miguel Sanó (2-for-4) crushed two doubles and walked twice.

It’s been four games since Washington sat the team down and told them to take a breath. In those four games, the Angels outscored their opponents 24-8 while out-hitting them 32-21.

“It seemed like the world was ending around us, apparently,” Sandoval said of the Angels’ 0-2 start to the season. “But no, we got the guys here that are going to fight, and we showed it. We’re a really good team.”

Washington refused to take any credit for hyping up -- or, really, calming down -- his team.

“That chat was a necessary thing,” Washington said. “[But] I don’t have to go between the lines, they do. So I think all the praise -- if there’s any praise about our 4-2 record -- it goes to the players, it certainly don’t go to me.”

Washington’s players see, and feel, a difference. And it proved to be exactly the message the club needed to hear.

“The guys have taken the message that he was trying to tell us to heart,” Ward said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we won the next four. But we just got to keep pushing, keep that mindset and keep playing.”