The first two games of the Angels’ series against the Texas Rangers were defined by excellent pitching performances. Shohei Ohtani kicked things off on Friday by tossing seven innings of two-run ball on a career-high 117 pitches, and Jose Suarez followed that up last night with the game of his life, throwing the team’s first complete game of the season while striking out eight Texas hitters and allowing just one earned run. The Halos will hope for another great outing on the mound when they go for the series win against the Rangers on Sunday, this time from the debuting Janson Junk.
For those unfamiliar, Junk was one of the players (along with current big-league reliever Elvis Peguero) acquired by the Angels in the deal that sent Andrew Heaney to the Yankees. Junk has spent the entire 2021 season in Double-A, where he has pitched to an impressive 2.81 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 93 innings. He mainly works with three different pitches, the best of which being a high-spin fastball that sits in the low- to mid-90s. He’ll also throw a curveball and a slider that has reportedly looked much improved this season compared to years past.
Junk comes into his Angels debut riding high off of what was probably the best start of his professional career, as he took a perfect game all the way into the 9th inning while pitching for the Rocket City Trash Pandas on August 27. His bid for history was broken up on a leadoff single in the game’s final frame, but it was still easily his best outing since joining the Angels organization and one that he can hopefully carry the momentum from into his start today.
Junk will be opposed on the mound by lefty Taylor Hearn, who has started to come into his own recently for the Rangers. Since the beginning of July, he has posted a 2.78 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched, a stretch that has earned him a regular spot in Texas’ starting rotation. Hearn has faced the Angels twice in relief this season (once on April 20 and the other on August 5), and in those games, he allowed three earned runs in five innings.
Angels News and Notes
- After being scratched from the lineup yesterday after experiencing back pain in warmups, Justin Upton was placed on the 10-day injured list with a right lumbar strain. Upton previously went on the IL with a back issue on June 25 that knocked him out for a month, and since returning from that injury, he hit just .126/.200/.242 in 26 games. The severity of this injury wasn’t disclosed, but if the last one is any indication, we may have seen the last of Upton in 2021.
- To take Upton’s spot on the roster, the Angels recalled Kean Wong from Triple-A Salt Lake. It has been a very busy month or so for Wong, who has been brought up to the big league club five different times since the beginning of August.
- In other news, Jared Walsh gets the day off on Sunday that he was supposed to have last night before Upton’s injury forced him back into the lineup.