Angels find their footing in series finale win

Detmers strikes out seven over five innings, Ward homers in second straight game

March 31st, 2024

BALTIMORE -- Angels fans, it’s OK to exhale.

After the club was blown out in the first two games of the season by 17 combined runs (24-7), the Angels bounced back in a big way with a 4-1 win over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards. Better pitching and getting ahead of hitters was the key, as lefty Reid Detmers threw five strong innings, reliever José Soriano dominated with three scoreless innings and closer Carlos Estévez picked up his first save of the year.

“I learned what they always were,” said Ron Washington, who picked up his first win as the Angels' manager. “We love to play, man. And today we got on the board early and Detmers did the rest. And Soriano and Estévez came in. We did everything we were supposed to do to get a win.”

It was a much-needed change of pace for the Angels, who gave up 11 runs on Thursday and 13 more on Saturday. And it came after Washington called a team meeting after just the second game of the season to reiterate that it’s extremely early in the year and to trust the process.

“It was great,” Estévez said. “We started off on the wrong foot, but it’s like what Wash basically said yesterday, ‘We're gonna get beat up, but it's not how we get beat up. It’s how we get up and keep fighting.' And that's what we showed today.”

That message seemed to resonate on Sunday, as the Angels looked like a different team and struck early against right-hander Tyler Wells. Left fielder Taylor Ward crushed a two-run homer to give the Angels a first-inning lead, his second homer in as many days.

The Angels tacked on two more runs in the second, keyed by an RBI single from Zach Neto and a throwing error by Orioles catcher James McCann. Logan O’Hoppe took a big lead at third base and McCann threw to third, but the throw went off O’Hoppe to allow him to score.

“We needed to get on board early and we certainly did,” Washington said. “That was a help in the first inning. We put up two runs in both the first and second innings and it held up. We got ahead and were able to hold on.”

It was more than enough for Detmers, who navigated his way through a tough Orioles lineup and struck out seven. The lone run he gave up came in the second when he briefly lost his command with two walks and a hit-by-pitch.

“That's a very good club that he shut down,” Washington said. “And in the first few innings, he got ahead of them and then he started mixing things up. We needed that pitching job very, very badly. And he gave it to us.”

Detmers said he didn’t feel any extra pressure to pitch well after the Angels struggled in the first two games, as he leaned on Washington’s positive message from Saturday.

“We know what type of team we are,” Detmers said. “To have a meeting after the second game, it was just to calm us down a little bit. It wasn’t like getting chewed out. More about, 'Go out there and have fun.' So there was zero pressure.”

After Detmers got through the fifth on 88 pitches, the Angels turned to Soriano for the first time this season, and he didn’t disappoint in his new role as a high-leverage long reliever, throwing three scoreless frames with two strikeouts and two walks. He was also helped by a well-timed mound visit from Washington with two on and one out in the seventh, after which he escaped the jam.

Soriano did it with his fastball reaching as high as 101 mph to go along with his curveball, which is considered one of the best pitches in the game.

“I've never seen something like that,” Estévez said. “I’ve been in this game for a while now and, ‘Oh my god.’ 101 [mph]. Super sink, nasty curveball. I'm like, 'Come on. Is this a kid created from a video game?' Just insane.”

It bridged the gap to Estévez, who threw a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve the victory that led to a much happier flight to Miami than if they got swept to open the season.

“Obviously, we needed it,” Detmers said. “The last two games haven’t been really our best games. We needed to step up. And I felt good and got us through five, and then Soriano and Esté did the rest. And we’re moving on.”