The Angels' slim postseason hopes will live another day.
The club quashed the possibility of being eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday with a 5-2 win over the Padres at Petco Park, keyed by three homers in the second inning. The Angels (26-31), who have three games remaining, are 2 1/2 games back of the Astros (28-28) for second place in the American League West, but the best they can do is finish with the same record as the Blue Jays (29-27) in the race for the final AL Wild Card spot. A tie would be broken by the clubs' intradivision records this season.
Houston and Toronto each have four games left and the Astros have a magic number of two, while the Blue Jays' is one. So the Angels will be mathematically alive when they begin their final series of the season against the Dodgers on Friday after an off-day on Thursday. The Angels have hit their stride down the stretch, winning six of seven and 14 of their last 20.
"We lost some games early, and they’ve become magnified right now," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "Everybody had the same goal in mind of a fast start. The threat was that the group would kind of like, I won't use the word quit, but they would be less interested if they got off to a bad start. But our guys are showing the absolute opposite. I'm really proud of them."
Shohei Ohtani sparked a rally in the second inning with a two-run homer off lefty Adrian Morejon, who replaced an injured Mike Clevinger after one inning. It was the seventh homer of the year for Ohtani but his first off a lefty. Ohtani entered the game batting just .154/.313/.205 against lefties this year and has been in the starting lineup at designated hitter only four times since Sept. 12.
“When he's right, it doesn't matter who's pitching,” Maddon said. "That kid that he hit it against is pretty much a neutral left-hander with a really good arm, like mid-90s and high 90s. Shohei did a nice job right there."
Justin Upton followed with a solo blast to left field on an 0-2 fastball from Morejon that was up in the zone. Upton crushed it into the second deck in left field a projected 430 feet, per Stacast. It also left the bat at 110.3 mph, which was Upton's second-hardest-hit homer since he joined the Angels in 2017. It was Upton's eighth homer of the year and another good sign for the veteran, who has turned it around at the plate after a slow start.
"I think it's important for me and important for the team," said Upton, who remains under contract through 2022. "I want to play well and help the guys. I've been able to do that of late, so it's been good."
Two batters later, Anthony Bemboom became the third batter to go deep off Morejon with a solo shot on a 2-2 slider. It was the third homer of the year for Bemboom, who is trying to prove he can be a quality backup catcher next year. He remains under team control through 2025.
"Bemboom is a Major League-quality catcher," Maddon said. "He's a nice yin to a yang of a right-handed-hitting catcher. I have a lot of faith in him. He's got skills, he just hasn't had opportunity yet. The guy's got skills. No fluke what he's doing. It's real. I have a lot of confidence in him."
The Angels were able to hold the lead despite right-hander Jaime Barria lasting just two-plus innings and allowing two runs on three hits in his final start of the year. Lefty Patrick Sandoval picked up the slack with three scoreless innings and five strikeouts, while right-hander Matt Andriese threw two scoreless frames. Mike Mayers showed off his durability with one-plus innings after recording a two-inning save on Monday and a five-out save on Tuesday, while Felix Peña closed it out with a scoreless ninth.
Sandoval, 23, picked up his first Major League victory in his 18th career appearance, which includes 14 starts, dating back to last season. Sandoval didn’t know he got the win until he heard from his teammates after the game, as it was at the discretion of the official scorer.
"It was good to finally get that first one," Sandoval said. "It's been a while. I had no idea. I didn't. Everyone kept asking me and I said, 'I don't know, I haven’t checked the box score yet.' But yeah, then they all said I got it, so it's pretty cool."