'Bringing the fire': Halos' bats erupt with 11-run inning

April 2nd, 2023

OAKLAND -- After the Angels managed just one run on five hits in their season-opening loss to the A’s on Opening Day on Thursday, manager Phil Nevin was adamant that he wasn’t worried about the club’s revamped offense going forward.

But through the first two innings against the A’s on Saturday, the offense remained cold, as the Angels were held hitless with four strikeouts against rookie right-hander Shintaro Fujinami, a high school rival of in Japan. But things changed in a hurry in the third inning, as the Angels put together an 11-run frame en route to a 13-1 victory at the Coliseum.

It was a sigh of relief for the Angels, who struggled offensively last season but brought in reinforcements this offseason, adding key veterans such as , and to the lineup.

“Like I said, I’m not worried about the offense,” Nevin said. “If you go back and look at the tape [Thursday] night, we hit some balls hard and things could have gone different ways. First game of the season, things aren't usually how they go the rest of the year. But I’m happy with the way we swung it today.”

The Angels sent 14 batters to the plate in the third, racking up seven hits and four walks in the inning. It was the club’s first 11-run inning since July 2, 2016, against the Red Sox, when they scored 11 runs in the seventh inning at Fenway Park.

“It was great,” said , who went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. “It was definitely the start we needed. I think just bringing the fire. It’s something we need to do every game and then keep our foot on the pedal. That was just one inning, but if we can do that for an entire game, it will be fun to put teams away.”

The rally started innocently enough, with  drawing a six-pitch walk to give the Angels their first baserunner of the afternoon. Urshela followed with a single before rookie ripped an RBI double to put the Angels on the board.

Ward singled to bring home another run and walked to load the bases for Ohtani, who smacked an opposite-field laser that banged off the left-field wall for a long RBI single. added a sacrifice fly before 's two-run single knocked Fujinami from the game with one out in the inning.

Making his Major League debut, Fujinami looked dominant in his first two innings with a 99-mph fastball and a 94-mph splitter, but the Angels knew the book on him was that he sometimes loses his command -- so they tried to be more patient in the third.

"I can tell you this, watching the tape on Fujinami from Spring Training, he didn't land that many breaking balls for strikes [but] he certainly did today,” Nevin said. “We saw what he has the potential to do in those first two innings. But knowing that the potential of him losing the strike zone a little bit, we had to be patient and stick with our approach."

Reliever Adam Oller didn’t fare much better, as the Angels kept it rolling. Rengifo walked for the second time in the inning to set up a two-run single from Urshela, who is off to a hot start to the season, getting hits in five of his first eight at-bats.

“He puts the bat on the ball and gives you a really good Major League at-bat,” Nevin said. “Just knowing him from our time in New York, he hits really good pitching. He takes the same at-bats against the best ones out there. It’s good to have him.”

O’Hoppe plated another run with a sacrifice fly before Ward connected on a two-run blast to left field to cap the scoring. Ward had two hits and three RBIs in the inning, which ended on a groundout from Trout.

The flurry of offense backed lefty , who had the advantage of pitching with a huge lead and delivered five strong innings. He allowed a run on a solo homer from Ramón Laureano in the fifth, but was otherwise sharp, walking the first batter he faced after the long top of the third but settling in from that point forward.

“I was just trying to keep my foot on the gas and make pitches,” Sandoval said. “It was cool to get 11 runs in that inning. To get through five with an 11-run lead and not screw it up, I’m pretty happy about it.”