Drury shaking off early funk, 'driving it with authority'

April 27th, 2023

ANAHEIM -- After receiving his 2022 Silver Slugger Award in a special ceremony before Sunday’s game against the Royals, joked with manager Phil Nevin that he didn’t feel like he deserved the award after his slow start to the season.

But Nevin reassured Drury, telling him he earned that honor after his breakout season with the Reds and Padres that saw him hit a career-high 28 homers and 87 RBIs in 138 games last year. Drury wasn’t in the lineup on Sunday and went 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter, but has been on fire through the first three games against the A’s, including going 2-for-5 with a homer, a double and three RBIs in an 11-3 win on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.

Drury went 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs in the series opener on Monday and 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs on Tuesday. Add it all up and Drury has smacked five extra-base hits and driven in nine runs over his last three games. It’s helped him raise his OPS from .477 entering the series to a much more respectable .730, which is starting to inch closer to his .812 OPS last year.

"My swing has been feeling good,” Drury said. “I feel like my timing has been better. I still think there's a lot to work on, but I feel really close to where I need to be. It's all feel for me. When I'm in there thinking about what I'm supposed to be doing, I'm really bad. The first three weeks, it was as bad as it gets. And when I'm just kind of in there trusting myself to be the dangerous hitter that I am, I’m a lot better.”

Drury pointed to his first at-bat of the series as a turning point for him, as he connected on a two-run homer off A's lefty Ken Waldichuk, noting that was the first time he was able to stay back on a changeup and drive it this season.

“You just have to keep going,” Drury said. “You can start thinking too much and trying too hard. You just have to keep going, because you take that one swing or take that one pitch, and remember that’s what it was. The first 60-70 at-bats, I was in there grinding, trying to get that feel back. But this series has felt a lot better.”

On Wednesday, Drury helped spark a five-run rally in the second, doubling to right field off A's rookie Luis Medina, who was making his Major League debut. It scored from second base and moved to third base, setting up a two-run double from .

Drury’s homer came in the fifth inning after Renfroe led off the inning with a walk. Drury jumped all over a first-pitch fastball from Medina for his fourth homer of the year and his third of the series.

“Even the strikeouts tonight, I thought he swung the bat well,” Nevin said. “I love the way he’s swinging the bat right now. He’s driving it with authority. Going up there with purpose. It's good to see.”

It’s been an encouraging sign to see Drury snap out of his early season funk, as he was signed to a two-year contract worth $17 million in the offseason and was expected to be a big part of the offense this year.

The Angels also brought in veterans and Renfroe to beef up a lineup that struggled offensively in 2022, finishing 25th in runs scored. So far, Urshela has hit for average and brought infield versatility, while Renfroe has been the club’s second-best hitter after  .

Renfroe started off slow through his first seven games but has been on an impressive hot streak of his own over his last 17 games. He's hit .333/.397/.758 with seven homers, seven doubles and 18 RBIs over that span, including going 2-for-4 with his team-leading seventh homer of the season on Wednesday.

The Angels brought in players like Drury and Renfroe to help ease the club’s reliance on superstars and Trout. Trout went 0-for-4 on Wednesday, while Ohtani went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer in the eighth after the game was out of reach.

It helped back lefty , who improved to 2-1 with a 3.16 ERA in five starts. He’s been an early beneficiary of the improved offense, as they averaged 3.36 runs per game during his 27 starts last year, but it's up to 6.6 runs per game in his five outings this season.

“It’s awesome,” Sandoval said. “We rake. From one to nine, we're nasty. Guys are getting hot and it's going to be a fun run we're going to have."