For a team like the Angels that has already been eliminated from playoff contention, these last few games of the season are all about finding silver linings amid the bad and the mundane. This last week doesn’t really have any impact on their place in the standings for this year, after all, so finding reasons for optimism is all that you really can do at this point.
One such silver lining this weekend was the opportunity to play spoiler against a Mariners team that desperately needed to rack up wins in order to keep their Wild Card hopes alive, and after the Halos played that role to perfection during their 14-1 demolition of Seattle on Saturday, they’ll have another chance to deal one more crushing blow the playoff aspirations of their division rivals during their home finale on Sunday afternoon.
The Angels definitely have the right man on the mound to accomplish this, as they’ll hand Shohei Ohtani the ball for his last home start of the year. In his last time out on the hill last Sunday, Ohtani turned in what was one of the best outings of his incredible season, spinning eight innings of two-run ball while allowing just five hits and striking out 10 Oakland Athletics hitters. There were concerns before that start that Ohtani would be shut down from pitching for the season’s final weeks due to a bout with general arm soreness, but his performance in that game showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that he still has a lot more left to give on the mound.
One of the main talking points from Ohtani’s last outing was the re-emergence of his trademark splitter. In that game, Ohtani threw this pitch a career-high 53 percent of the time, and he absolutely dominated with it to the tune of 18 whiffs on 38 swings against it. It appeared that he was experimenting with a slightly different version of it as well, and if his results were anything to go by, he might’ve found yet another weapon to add to his already lengthy arsenal.
Shohei Ohtani, Splitter Grip/Spin Variation.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 20, 2021
I hadn't noticed this "new" grip until yesterday (not sure if he's done that before). pic.twitter.com/LLBG0YaieL
Another thing to watch for regarding Ohtani is whether he can continue his extended run of dominance while pitching in the familiar confines of Angel Stadium. In his 12 home starts this season, Ohtani has pitched to a miniscule 2.02 ERA, striking out 83 batters in 71.1 innings while allowing just a .194 opposing batting average. A lot of his best moments on the mound have come while in front of the home fans, and he’ll have one last chance to put on a show for them this season on Sunday.
Nothing beats home cooking.— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) September 26, 2021
Come catch Ohtani and the Angels in their final home game of the 2021 season!! Pregame show starts at 12:30 PST!! TUNE IN!! ️
: Bally Sports West
: @BallySports#WeBelieve | @Angels pic.twitter.com/cOyj40Ygvb
Opposite Ohtani for the Mariners will be Marco Gonzales, whom the Angels have had a rather interesting relationship with over the years. They’ve only squared off against him once this season back on July 9, and in that game, they managed to tack on three runs and two home runs (hit by Ohtani and David Fletcher) off of him in 5.2 innings.
In the past, however, the Halos have seen a whole lot of Gonzales during his 4 and a half years in Seattle, and their results against him have been all over the place. On one hand, you have a handful of absolutely dominant starts from him against them, such as his one-run complete game with eight strikeouts from last year or his 8.1 innings of one-run ball from back in 2019, and on the other, you have starts like the career-worst 10 earned runs that he allowed in just four innings also back in 2019. Gonzales’ 3.62 career ERA against the Angels shows that he has been pretty successful against them overall, but definitely it has been a very mixed bag.
The Halos offense will look to get things going against Gonzales with suddenly a lot of momentum after yesterday’s 14-run onslaught. This was tied for the most runs that they have scored in a game all season, and it was just the fourth time that they had reached double-digit runs in a game since the beginning of July. The bats have struggled with consistency issues for a while, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they have trouble replicating something close to that performance here today, but seeing so many runs cross the plate might be just what they needed from a confidence standpoint.
Angels News and Notes
- Jaime Barria left yesterday’s start after just two innings with what was described by the team as arm fatigue, and today we got a little more clarification about that injury, as he was placed on the injured list with a right shoulder impingement. Joe Maddon said that they’re not sure of the severity of the injury just yet, but Barria will not make his next scheduled start. In the corresponding move, Sam Selman was recalled from AAA.
- Maddon also said that it is possible that Reid Detmers is the one to take Barria’s spot in the rotation next week. Detmers is currently with AAA Salt Lake, and he hasn’t pitched with the big league club since August 21 thanks to a stint on the COVID IL.
- In last night’s game, Phil Gosselin and Jared Walsh became the first pair of Angels teammates to have four or more RBI in the same game since August of 2017, when Cliff Pennington and Albert Pujols accomplished it.
- Last night’s game also saw Shohei Ohtani set another walks record, as he tied the MLB record for most free passes in a four-game span with 13. The only other people to accomplish that are Babe Ruth, Bryce Harper and Yasmani Grandal.