At the beginning of this season, Joe Maddon came up with a simple slogan that he wanted this Angels team to represent: “Play Like It’s 1985”.
What he meant by this, of course, was that he wanted his guys to turn back the clock and embrace a small-ball philosophy that was commonplace back then. On Thursday afternoon, however, the Angels took those words about as literally as you could, as they scored 11 unanswered runs to overcome a 10-2 deficit and complete the franchise’s biggest comeback victory in almost 35 years.
With today's win, the team matches the franchise record by overcoming an 8-run deficit.— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 19, 2021
The last time this happened was Aug. 29, 1986 vs. Detroit (trailed 11-3 in the 7th inning; won 13-12). pic.twitter.com/5wPp2VSc2m
Hours before all of the late-game heroics took place, this one started off about as poorly as it could have. The Halos handed the ball to Jose Quintana on short notice for his first start since being removed from the rotation in late May, and it was pretty clear from the outset that he did not have it going, to say the least. The second batter he faced in Jonathan Schoop reached on an error after the Angels lefty dropped the ball on a play at first base, and after two singles and an RBI groundout by Jeimer Candelario, Miguel Cabrera and Daz Cameron respectively, the Halos found themselves in an early 2-run hole.
The Angels offense gave a sneak preview of what was to come later in the following inning, though, quickly answering back to eliminate the early deficit. Jo Adell again showcased his improving plate discipline by working a 10-pitch walk against Tigers starter Matt Manning, and Brandon Marsh opened up what would be a stellar day for him by tripling in Adell right after. The young outfielder probably should’ve had his first career home run on this play, as the ball appeared to hit over the yellow line in right field, but both the umpires and Maddon decided not to take a look at it.
If this series were in any other ballpark, Brandon Marsh might have had his first 2 career home runs. Missed one by inches on Tuesday and probably should’ve had that one last inning. pic.twitter.com/sLDcSOAed2— Halos Heaven (@halosheaven) August 19, 2021
Max Stassi followed this by driving in Marsh with an RBI groundout, which brought things level once again. They wouldn’t stay that way, however, as the Detroit bats jumped all over Quintana in the bottom of the 2nd. Shortstop Zack Short led off the inning with a home run, and after three straight singles to load the bases right after, Maddon decided that that was enough for his starter after just four outs recorded.
Things got even worse from here, though, as Aaron Slegers could not get out of the jam that he inherited without more damage. Candelario drove in the second run of the inning with a single, and then Cabrera cleared the bases with a double of his own. It wasn’t his 500th career home run like many of the Detroit faithful in attendance had hoped it would be, but it was still more than enough to give the Tigers an early 7-2 advantage.
Things went quiet for both teams for a couple innings after this, but it was only a matter of time before the hot Tiger bats caught fire once again. Both Candelario and Willi Castro hit solo home runs of their own off of Slegers in the fourth, and Schoop continued his Angel-killing ways by doubling home a run in the 5th to bring the Detroit lead all the way up to 10-2.
It was at this point that many people understandably thought that this one was essentially over for the Angels, but they soon began to make things interesting. Three singles off the bats of Stassi, Shohei Ohtani and David Fletcher chased reliever Derek Holland, and Phil Gosselin kept the line moving with a single of his own off the foot of new pitcher Joe Jimenez to get the Halos back on the board. Jimenez lost the strike zone after this, issuing bases-loaded walks to both Jared Walsh and Justin Upton before being pulled and subsequently ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes.
Kyle Funkhouser came in as the third pitcher of the inning to face Adell and got him to ground into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but the speedy outfielder beat it out to keep the inning going. This would prove to be very important right away, as Marsh followed by launching his second triple of the day over the head of Cameron, driving in Walsh and Adell to cap off a six-run 6th inning for the Halos that brought them within striking distance once again.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT #WeBelieve I @Angels I @brandon_marsh22 pic.twitter.com/M6Rq2F1A5l— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) August 19, 2021
This two-run deficit would get cut in half one inning later on Walsh’s first extra-base hit since July 22, as he drove in Ohtani from second base to bring the score up to 10-9. Upton nearly gave the Angels the lead right after that, but Candelario made a nice play on a ball hit 105.3 miles per hour off the bat with a .540 expected batting average to end the threat and keep the Tigers on top.
As the Halo bats caught fire, the bullpen quietly put in some excellent work. Andrew Wantz came on in relief of Slegers in the 5th inning and struck out two of the five batters he faced, including the red-hot Candelario, while allowing just one baserunner that reached on an error. Mike Mayers came in after Wantz and put up an equally strong outing, continuing his impressive stretch of late by pitching a perfect 7th.
This resiliency by the bullpen kept the Angels’ comeback effort alive as the game headed into the late innings, and they managed to cap it off in dramatic fashion in the 8th. Marsh concluded the best game of his young career by drawing an impressive 10-pitch walk against Michael Fulmer to get the first runner of the inning on base, and Stassi immediately followed up the rookie’s great at bat with an incredible two-run home run that gave the Angels their first lead of the game.
SANTA MARIA WE'VE TAKEN THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/iTinCZ6zmx— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 19, 2021
The Halos wouldn’t let up after that, though, as Ohtani concluded a nice day of his own by tacking on an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that brought in Jose Iglesias. Gosselin also got in the action in the top of the 9th, hitting a solo homer to bring in the Angels’ 11th unanswered run and increasing the lead to 13-10.
The job of finishing the game fell to Austin Warren, and he showed that he was up to the task and then some. He was tabbed to protect the Halos’ newfound lead in the bottom of the 8th, where he promptly responded by retiring the side on six pitches. Maddon stuck with Warren for the 9th inning with closer Raisel Iglesias unavailable, and the rookie rewarded his manager’s faith by pitching another perfect frame with two strikeouts, recording his first career save and putting the finishing touches on the historic comeback.
Down eight runs in the last game of a series in the middle of a grueling road trip, the Angels could’ve mailed this one in and been content with winning two of three games in Detroit. Instead, they fought back valiantly to secure the sweep of the Tigers in what was without a doubt the team’s most impressive victory of the season. They move back over .500 with a record of 62-61 and will try to continue the momentum from the win into tomorrow when they open up a three-game series in Cleveland (and Williamsport, Pennsylvania) against the
Guardians Indians at 4:10 PM PST.