After opening the second half by losing two of three to the Astros, it was starting to feel like things might slip away from the Angels. But they turned it around in a big way with a three-game sweep of the Yankees, punctuated by a 7-3 victory in the series finale on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.
It was the Angels’ first sweep of the Yankees since July 10-12, 2009. And more important, it was their fourth win over their past five games, and they’re back over .500, at 49-48. They’re 4 1/2 games back of the Astros and Blue Jays for the third and final AL Wild Card spot and just one game behind the Yankees.
“We wanted to start off well after the break after struggling before and I’d say 4-2 against two teams in front of us looks pretty good,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ve just been consistent and playing clean. We’ve pitched well, and we’ve had some timely hitting. That’s what’s helping us win games right now.”
Left fielder Taylor Ward, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBIs to pace the offense, said the Angels are playing with urgency right now because of where they are in the standings with the Trade Deadline looming.
After an off-day on Thursday, the Angels’ next two series come against clubs with losing records, which could help them make up more ground. They host the Pirates for a three-game set before heading to Detroit for a three-game series.
“Hopefully, we can have a good off-day and keep the feeling going,” Ward said. “It’s really exciting. There are still a lot of games to be played. But I think this really helps us moving forward with where we’re at and what we could do at the Trade Deadline.”
Right-hander Chase Silseth was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake before the game and registered one of the best outings of his career, giving the Angels three straight solid starts against New York. Silseth set a career high with 10 strikeouts over 5 2/3 strong innings, following impressive outings from Griffin Canning and Patrick Sandoval.
The trio combined to allow four runs over 18 2/3 innings with 29 strikeouts, which is a good sign for the Angels, as their rotation had been struggling heading into the series. And their pitchers combined for 42 total strikeouts in the series to set a franchise record for a three-game set.
Silseth, who started because Jaime Barria was needed in relief twice against the Astros, also pitched well enough to possibly warrant a stay in the rotation. Silseth was efficient and attacked hitters, as 38 of his 85 pitches were either called strikes or whiffs. His lone mistake was serving up a solo homer to Giancarlo Stanton on a 2-1 sinker in the sixth inning with the Angels already out to a large lead.
“I was able to pound the zone,” Silseth said. “When you can locate in the zone and you mix it up with off-speed and breaking balls, it keeps the hitters off-balance. That was the key to the game.”
The Angels’ offense kept it rolling, tying a club record by homering in its 18th straight game. It was a feat previously accomplished by the club from July 26-Aug. 13, 1982.
Just like on Tuesday, the Angels took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning on a homer. This time, it was Ward who connected on a 1-2 curveball from lefty Carlos Rodón to put the Angels up two early. Luis Rengifo added a two-run homer of his own in the second. And the Angels scored twice more in the third, as Mickey Moniak dropped in a rare RBI single off a lefty and Eduardo Escobar plated a run with an RBI fielder’s choice.
“Our offense is doing their part,” Nevin said. “We’ll have some hiccups here and there. But it’s about how you rebound from those things. It’s a very resilient room. There’s some added leadership in there. You just know those ruts will be less deep. But it was a really good effort these three days against a team that’s in front of us.”