Just when you thought Jared Walsh couldn't get any hotter this month, the rookie first baseman capped a seven-run fourth inning with a grand slam to center that was projected at 450 feet by Statcast.
Walsh’s first career grand slam extended his hitting streak to 13 games and lifted the Angels to an 8-5 win over the Rangers in the series finale on Monday in the last home game of the season at Angel Stadium. It also helped Los Angeles to its first seven-run inning since Aug. 31, 2019, against the Red Sox.
“It's been really exciting and something you dream about your whole life,” Walsh said of his recent run. “I'm trying not to get too sentimental. I'll wait until the offseason to do that, but just enjoying every day that I get to play, because it's really special."
Walsh has been on fire in September, and during his hit streak, he’s batting .396 (21-for-53) with seven homers, two doubles, a triple, 13 runs scored and 21 RBIs. He also has eight homers (tied for second in the Majors) and 23 RBIs (tied for third in the Majors) in 17 games this month. It’s helped Walsh solidify himself as the starting first baseman this year, and the former 39th-round Draft pick is setting himself up to be the first baseman of the future.
Walsh, 27, signed for just $3,000 out of the University of Georgia in 2015 -- he said he’ll never forget that figure -- and he has the talent and drive to keep it going.
"I think there's certainly motivation, but it's not necessarily from that [signing bonus], I just love the game," Walsh said. "I hope to be in the game for a long, long time, so every day that I show up, I try to put the work in and be a consistent player. And going forward, I hope I continue to do that."
Walsh has certainly impressed manager Joe Maddon, who often raves about the rookie’s “electric hands” and said it wasn’t a surprise to see Walsh hit the grand slam so far to center.
"I'm telling you, man, just come and watch him take BP. That's not the last one," Maddon said. "He's going to hit balls like that in the future, he's that good. His hands are that strong, the way he starts the bat -- I'm telling you, it's not a fluke. He's deceiving, he's bigger than you think, stronger than you think. The way the hands work, that's why the ball goes that far."
The Angels entered the fourth inning down, 3-1, but they staged a huge rally against right-hander Kyle Gibson. They loaded the bases with nobody out, keyed by walks from Shohei Ohtani and Justin Upton. Taylor Ward was unable to bring home a run, but Max Stassi and Andrelton Simmons ripped back-to-back singles to bring in three runs to take the lead.
After David Fletcher reached on an error from Rangers shortstop Anderson Tejada, it set the stage for Walsh's critical blow. Walsh absolutely hammered a 3-1 sinker from Gibson to center field, and he knew it was gone from the moment it hit the bat. It had an exit velocity of 109.9 mph, per Statcast.
"I had a feeling, but I probably would have looked like an idiot if it had not gone out," Walsh said. "I got a fastball over the plate. I was in a little bit of an advantage count, so I was looking for it and was on time for it. So I had a feeling it was going out."
It aided right-hander Dylan Bundy in getting the win in his second-to-last start of the year. He wasn't as sharp as usual, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks over five innings. But it was enough to improve to 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA.
Bundy, acquired in an offseason trade with the Orioles, admitted he didn’t know much about Walsh coming into the season and didn’t get a chance to know him until Summer Camp in July.
“It’s awesome watching him hit the ball here lately,” Bundy said. “He’s on one right now. Sweet swing from the left side, too. Any time you get that kind of run support, you just want to try to keep the guys in the game and let them do their thing and stay out of their way.”