It was the Angels’ first real test heading into a series of challenges in August.
A sweep over the Toronto Blue Jays would have put the Angels even with a team they are chasing for a playoff spot. A series win would have allowed them to improve their standing in that race.
By Saturday, the Angels had lost the series and they watched another one of their key players depart after an on-field accident. They did avoid getting swept Sunday, beating the Blue Jays, 3-2, in 10 innings at Rogers Centre.
“It's not really what we planned on doing coming in here, but winning today was,” manager Phil Nevin said. “You talked about the importance of today's game and we say they're all important. You don't want to put any more on one game than another before it, but to say this one was needed right now is an understatement.”
The Angels (55-51) still dropped a game in the standings to the Blue Jays (59-47), who hold the third and final wild-card spot in the American League. The Angels begin a three-game series Monday in Atlanta against the Braves, who have the best record in the majors at 67-36.
The Angels are in third place in the AL West, five games behind first-place Texas.
Here are three other takeaways from the Angels’ series with the Blue Jays:
Runners in scoring position
The Angels struggled with runners in scoring position all series, going 0 for 27 through 27 innings before the 10th on Sunday. The two-run home run that Hunter Renfroe hit, driving in the automatic runner, Mike Moustakas, broke the ice when it mattered most.
“I wasn’t really trying to hit a homer there, I was just trying to make sure that I hit the ball and I get [Moustakas] in,” Renfroe said. “Obviously hats off to [the Blue Jays] pitching staff. Their guys are really good too … but we have to do a little better job getting guys in when we need to. Less than two outs, you gotta get the job done. Me, everybody’s included in that.”
This Angels team was constructed to avoid last season's offensive struggles. Even though the team that went through the gauntlet over the weekend, as has been the case through much of the season, was not the same team that started the season with the Angels. Even as strong as the Blue Jays' pitching is, the Angels should have been capable of scoring more than five runs all series.
The Angels' starters were decent, all things considered: the Blue Jays' tough lineup, the scary injury to Taylor Ward on Saturday, a new starting pitcher, the stakes of this series.
Giolito pitched 5 ⅓ innings, giving up three earned runs after meeting his new teammates and connecting with a new catcher for the first time before Friday’s game. Detmers pitched 4 ⅔ innings, giving up two earned runs on a home run after he and his teammates watched Ward depart for a hospital after taking a pitch to the face the half inning prior. On Sunday, Tyler Anderson went 6 ⅓ innings, giving up one earned run.
“Just trying to go out and compete and give us a chance,” Anderson said of his outing. “I just felt like we were in there every game. I think the only thing missing was a couple big hits with runners on, but I just feel like we as a team grinded out at-bats and innings on the mound.”
The positive news on Ward: He was discharged from the hospital Saturday night, returned to the team hotel, was in good spirits and for now seems to have avoided any significant eye/vision issues, Nevin said.
The bad news on Ward: He suffered multiple facial fractures as a result of getting hit by a 92-mph pitch. The team does not know what Ward’s timeline to recovery will be and could not say whether he could return this season. Ward will continue to be evaluated.
Ward’s absence from the outfield should not be taken lightly considering they are already down one of their most valuable players — center fielder Mike Trout (wrist surgery, earliest return sometime in August), as well as Jo Adell (oblique strain, return date to be determined).
The Angels called up Kevin Padlo with Ward going on the injured list. After Renfroe, whose main position is right field, their other true outfielder is Mickey Moniak. Others who can play in the outfield are Trey Cabbage, who played center on Sunday, Luis Rengifo and Andrew Velazquez; whenever Brandon Drury (shoulder bruise) returns, he could also be an outfield option.
“We’ll make it work,” Nevin said. “I mean, this is a blow yesterday obviously. I really think metrics-wise, numbers-wise, Taylor’s the best left fielder in baseball … but we have options to go out there. I think the most important thing is to get the best bats in there if we can and we’ll figure out the defensive side.
“I know that’s not what you want to do with it, but in order to score enough runs we’re gonna have to be able to put them in the right places and maximize what we can do offensively.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.