Offseason strategy paying off as Drury heats up in team effort

May 9th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- The Angels’ strategy in the offseason was clear. They wanted to improve their overall depth, which is why the club signed to a two-year deal and traded for veterans and .

And so far this season, the early returns have been promising, and it was evident against the Astros on Monday. Renfroe homered, and Drury delivered a go-ahead RBI triple in the eighth inning to help carry the Angels to a 6-4 win in the series opener at Angel Stadium.

“It felt good,” Drury said. “Any time you can do something good to help the team win, especially against a good team like the Astros, it feels awesome. It’s still super early in the season, but it’s always good to win big games against good teams.”

Drury got off to a slow start offensively but has been heating up over the last few weeks, hitting .314/.364/.804 with six homers, three doubles, two triples and 15 RBIs over his last 13 games. He's also posted a .905 OPS with two homers, a double and a triple in six games in May. It's helped him raise his OPS from .477 on April 23 to a much more respectable .776 OPS in 33 games this season.

Drury said the key has been working with hitting coach Marcus Thames to be more aggressive at the plate, and Thames reminded him of that advice before his triple off reliever Rafael Montero. Drury, who was 0-for-3 with a strikeout heading into the at-bat, jumped on a first-pitch sinker down the middle and smacked it off the wall in center field to score from first base.

He became the first Angels player to hit an RBI triple in the eighth inning or later since C.J. Cron on Sept. 5, 2017, at Oakland. And the last Angels player to do it at home was Cliff Pennington on Aug. 16. 2016, against the Mariners.

“My first few at-bats, I got away [from being aggressive] and was getting down in the count, so Marcus was telling me, ‘Go be aggressive. That’s what works for you and makes you good,’” Drury said. “So I was just being aggressive there and got a good pitch to hit.”

Angels manager Phil Nevin has liked what he’s been seeing from Drury in recent weeks and believes he’s looking more like the player who won a Silver Slugger with the Reds and Padres last year.

“Marcus has been preaching to him [to] stay aggressive in the zone and get a pitch to hit early in the count,” Nevin said. “The eighth inning was a perfect example of that. He got a really good pitch in his zone to hit. It was a pitch down and away, and he hit the heck out of it to center field. It was a really, really big hit for him.”

Drury’s go-ahead triple was part of an overall team effort, as every Angels batter except superstar had a hit. Renfroe homered in the second inning, while had RBI doubles in both the third and fifth frames.

, who moved back into the leadoff spot, went 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored and believes the improved depth makes the lineup dangerous.
“I feel bad for the pitchers out there because there’s really no stop,” Ward said. “You just never know when they’re going to make a bad pitch and be regretting it. So it’s pretty cool, and we just want to keep it rolling.”

Nevin said the only downside to the better depth is having to bench capable players such as , who wasn’t in the lineup on Monday, but is expected to be back in there on Tuesday against lefty Framber Valdez.

“That's one of the things we focused on this winter, absolutely,” Nevin said of the depth. “There's tough decisions every night. There are hard conversations to be had. But everybody in that room wants to win and understands what we're doing.”

The offense helped back lefty , who allowed four runs over 6 ⅓ innings and noted that Monday was the kind of win that has eluded the Angels in recent years. It was telling that in a game that Trout went 0-for-4 that the offense was still able to put up 11 hits and six runs against a quality team. 

“It was huge,” Sandoval said. “Over the last two or three years, I don’t think we pull that one out, to be honest with you. It was a big one for us today.”