The Angels got off to a strong start to the year thanks in part to big-time offensive performances and a number of late-inning comebacks. And those same characteristics defined the club’s first road trip of 2021, which wrapped up with a 6-1 loss to the Royals on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
Amid rain-delayed games, wild finishes and some unfortunate injuries, leaving Anaheim for the first time this season had its ups and downs for the Angels.
Overall, Angels manager Joe Maddon said playing .500 baseball on the first road trip of the year was a good start considering the obstacles his club faced.
“You know it’s just kind of an awkward road trip,” Maddon said. “I’m happy to get home at 3-3 off of it. I mean, actually that’s a good thing. We had the opportunity to have a really good road trip, but it was adverse. I mean, things that happened made it much more difficult.”
Here are the top takeaways from the Angels' first road trip of the season:
Ohtani stays hot at the plate while he awaits next pitching outing
Heading into 2021, the thoughts surrounding the Japanese two-way player were if he was healthy enough to continue playing two ways.
Despite the hold on him pitching due to a lingering blister issue, Ohtani continued to slug his way through the road trip despite going 0-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday.
Ohtani homered twice and drove in nine runs in his team’s first road trip. He has slashed .340/.380/.745 to start the year.
Injuries reshuffle the Angels roster
With right fielder Dexter Fowler going down for the season with an ACL tear and third baseman Anthony Rendon moved to the 10-day injured list, the Angels were without two regulars starter for the final two games of the road trip.
Left fielder Justin Upton was scratched from Tuesday’s game after he was originally in the starting lineup. On Wednesday, the former All-Star was absent for the series finale in what was a last-minute call by Maddon.
Jon Jay started in Upton’s place in back-to-back games and went 1-for-8 with a single.
Maddon hopes Upton can return following the off-day on Thursday.
Rookie utility man Jose Rojas, who has played in seven games this year, could see more time at the hot corner with Rendon sidelined. Rojas doubled in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s loss for his first big league hit after starting off his career 0-for-17.
Rojas, who is an Anaheim native, said getting his first hit in the Majors felt “like a slow motion moment” and “a sigh of relief.” He said he’ll look to stay the course and trust his abilities to build off the career moment.
“It goes back to game planning and having a simple approach, a nice and easy approach with a good pitch to swing at and then [you] go from there,” he said.
Up and down bullpen performances
Heading into Wednesday, the Angels bullpen was among the top 10 in the Majors for ERA (3.86), hits allowed (40) and innings pitched (44 1/3).
The Angels benefited from a strong outing in an extra-inning win over the Blue Jays last Thursday, but in a one-run game against the Royals, the bullpen didn't have the same results. After starter Griffin Canning allowed two runs in five innings, Angels relievers combined to give up four runs (three earned) to the Royals on Wednesday.
Two runs were charged to rookie Chris Rodriguez after his 1 2/3 innings and another was charged to lefty Tony Watson in his one-third of an inning.
Maddon said the lack of run support limited the Angels bullpen and how it could be utilized.
The Angels pushed across just three runs combined in the last two games against Kansas City. On Wednesday, center fielder Mike Trout and first baseman Jared Walsh struck out back-to-back to leave the bases loaded in a scoreless top of the third inning.
“We did have opportunities earlier [to score], which then [meant] we could have done things differently in the bullpen, but overall, I mean, our pitching was really good,” Maddon said. “The home run by [Carlos Santana] was kind of a breaker, but otherwise the bullpen threw the ball really good.”