Calhoun breaks out with 4-hit showing in Texas homecoming

May 18th, 2024

ARLINGTON -- It was supposed to be all about the homecoming for Angels skipper Ron Washington, who previously managed the Rangers from 2007-14, including leading Texas to the World Series in 2010 and ’11.

But instead, it was who stole the show against his former club, as he stayed hot with a four-hit game to help lift the Angels to a 9-3 win in the series opener at Globe Life Field on Friday night. It was the second time Calhoun racked up four hits in a game, and the first time since May 16, 2019, in Kansas City, while with the Rangers. He said it was extra special against his former club, which he made his Major League debut with in 2017.

“I think a four-hit game, in general, feels good no matter who it’s against but I spent five years with that organization and feel like I grew up there,” Calhoun said. “But ultimately I'm here now and I'm happy with this clubhouse here. It's exciting.”

Calhoun, a former top prospect, has been on fire since getting called up by the Angels on May 1. The 29-year-old has hit .365/.382/.577 with a homer, eight doubles and five RBIs in 13 games while providing a spark as the club’s designated hitter.

It was a return to Texas for Calhoun, who played with the Rangers from 2017-22 after being acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Dodgers that sent Yu Darvish to Los Angeles in '17. Calhoun, though, never quite lived up to his potential with the Rangers and was designated for assignment by Texas in June 2022. Calhoun played in four games with the Giants in '22 and 44 with the Yankees last year before signing a Minor League deal with the Angels in the offseason.

It reunited him with hitting coach Johnny Washington, who worked with Calhoun when he was a prospect in the Dodgers’ organization. Calhoun said he worked with Washington during Spring Training to rediscover himself as a hitter, as he felt he had tried to hit too many homers during his previous stints in the Majors instead of letting the power come to him.

“I just think in the last few years, I kind of lost myself and just lost my approach and what got me into the big leagues back in 2017,” Calhoun said. “I was always like a gap-to-gap guy, but I lost that approach when I got here and started trying to chase power instead of letting it naturally flow and get back into my game.”

With the Angels decimated by injuries, Calhoun has been one of several veterans who has been brought up as a reinforcement, and he’s made the most of his opportunity, much like outfielder Kevin Pillar. It has impressed Ron Washington, who believes Calhoun has finally found himself as a player.

“I’m very proud,” Washington said. “Willie Calhoun as a youngster was a pretty good hitter. And for some reason along the way, he lost his way. But hopefully, we found the Willie Calhoun that everyone thought he would be.”

Calhoun grounded out in his first at-bat in the second inning against lefty Andrew Heaney, but then singled in four straight at-bats. He singled to lead off the fourth, and two batters later, Zach Neto connected on a two-run blast to give the Angels a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Calhoun added an RBI single in the fifth to score Pillar before singling again in the seventh and ninth innings. His single in the ninth set up a two-run double from Jo Adell.

It helped back lefty Tyler Anderson, who set the tone with yet another strong performance, as he’s become the surprising ace of the staff this season after a down year in 2023. He went seven innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

“He’s unbelievable,” Anderson said of Calhoun. “You guys see it every day. He’s an unbelievable hitter. I’ve always thought he was a good hitter. But it’s been showing up every day so far. He’s been great. I’m happy for him.”

Calhoun was also happy his performance got Washington the win in front of 16 of his family members, as he knew the importance of returning to Texas for Washington.

“It probably felt really good for him,” Calhoun said. “I know this place means a lot to him. I was talking to him earlier and he had his family here, so it probably feels really good for him to get a win here and especially against Texas.”