Going into today’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians, there was really no doubt about it: the Halos are in bad shape. A sweep in Houston and a sweep in Dodger Stadium, plus a weak showing against the Rangers before those two series, and you start to see just how bad the nosedive really is. Of course, there’s a caveat on that putrid stretch of games: they faced some of MLB’s best pitching, including Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They needed something good to happen to kick off this homestand. They needed a win. As luck(or lack thereof) would have it, they faced Corey Kluber tonight, one of the aces of the AL and the lynchpin of an Indians team that struggles to score. If the Angels wanted to bust the slump, it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk.
Garrett Richards was starting for the Angels, which is typically a huge confidence booster, but right from the beginning, Richards put his team on their back foot. First, it was an RBI single by Michael Brantley. Then, things turned from "not good" to "oh, not again" when Yan Gomes rocketed a two run homer into center field, giving the Indians a 0-3 lead before the Angels lineup would even see a pitch.
Meanwhile, Corey Kluber was doing his thing, and immediately got to stifling the Halos. It just seemed like one of those nights. The Angels would get dominated by truly filthy stuff, but when they managed to get some base hits, they’d come up short or get burned by a Kluber-friendly strikezone. When they would try other ways of getting on the board, like Kole Calhoun taking a pitch towards center field home run glory, there was Michael Bourn leaping above the fence and robbing him. Sad trombone sounds all around.
Things would turn around, though, and they started with Garrett Richards. After that ugly first, Richards went on a tear, eventually retiring 12 straight since at one point. The Angels were making their push, and in the fifth, Kole Calhoun got an RBI single to put them on the board and trending up. Mike Trout immediately followed with an RBI single of his own, breaking an 0-11 streak he had lingering from Chavez Ravine. Getting warmer, warmer….
In the bottom of the sixth, the tide turned, and it turned hard. Erick Aybar started the inning with a single, and the Cool New Guy Conor Gillaspie further solidified his stance as Coolest New Guy Ever as he hit a towering homer to right field, putting the Angels up 4-3. They weren’t done taking their aggression out on the Indians. Johnny Giavotella had a single to center field, and then went first to third on a Carlos Perez groundout. With two down, David DeJesus came to bat and got his first hit as a Halo, via an RBI single towards second base. It should have been an inning-ending play, but Kluber failed to cover first and allowed DeJesus to get on and another run to score. Angels were up 5-3, and that would be all she wrote for Corey Kluber. Things were finally beginning to feel right in the universe.
Richards would continue to cruise, going and after the rough patch in the first, he went the remaining 7 ⅔ innings striking out a career-high tying 11 batters. He was pulled in the eighth, and was followed by Cesar Ramos, Joe Smith and Huston Street. Joe Smith gave up an RBI single(a Garrett Richards inherited runner) but got out of the side, and set up Huston Street to get the save and greatly needed 5-4 win.
The Angels will need to get hot again, and it’s not going to be easy whatsoever, but hey...this is a step in the right direction. The nice part about tonight’s slump-busting victory is that it was a true team effort. C.J. Cron had a nice night at the plate. David Murphy even got in on the action. David DeJesus got his first hit as an Angel, and it was a big one, Conor Gillaspie continues to surprise and Mike Trout was Mike Trout. It’s a start. Now do it again.