A recent surge has propelled the Los Angeles Angels to the top of the American League West, while a swoon has banished the Washington Nationals to the basement in the National League East.
On Friday night, when Washington’s Joan Adon (1-4, 7.33 ERA) opposes an undecided Los Angeles starter in the opener of a three-game series at Anaheim, Calif., it will be a meeting of teams with different mindsets.
Coming off two wins in Boston in a span of 15 hours and with nine victories in their past 12 games, the Angels arrive home on a high.
Meanwhile, the Nationals have lost 11 of their past 14, a stretch that began with an eight-game losing streak.
One plus for Washington is missing Shohei Ohtani’s turn in the rotation. On Thursday afternoon in an 8-0 win, the right-hander dazzled the Red Sox with seven shutout innings, scattering six hits and fanning 11.
Ohtani didn’t walk a batter and threw 81 strikes on 99 pitches. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate, inspiring comparison to Babe Ruth, who played in Fenway Park a century ago.
“He’s the best player in the league,” losing pitcher Rich Hill said. “Everybody should be really appreciating what we’re seeing because it’s something we haven’t seen in 100 years and we may never see it again for another 100 years.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon echoed Hill’s comments.
“I hope you don’t start taking that for granted, like it’s old hat,” Maddon said. “It’s just so unusual. It’s otherworldly on this level of the game.”
The Angles have thrived with an offense that ranks among the top three in the majors in runs (128), home runs (34), steals (17), slugging percentage (.416) and OPS (.737).
In the two wins at Boston, Jared Walsh hit home runs in each and totaled eight RBIs, giving him a team-high 18 for the season.
Taylor Ward, a 28-year-old career reserve, has been a revelation, leading the Angels with a .368 batting average and six home runs. Mike Trout also has six homers and a .316 average.
Despite their recent woes, the Nationals have come alive on offense during their current road trip, averaging 7.8 runs per game but only winning three of six games.
Yadiel Hernandez has led the offensive surge, leading the team with a .373 average. Josh Bell, who is hitting .356 with 19 RBIs, has been a constant.
Juan Soto hit his sixth home run Thursday afternoon in a 9-7 road loss to the Colorado Rockies, but he has only seven RBIs this year.
Soto made an uncharacteristic mental blunder in the latest defeat, venturing too far off third base and getting thrown out on a fifth-inning play that derailed a potentially big rally.
“That could have made the tying run in the game and I just made myself out,” Soto said. “I won’t blame anybody. It was me.”
After earning his first major league win by pitching six-plus shutout innings in a 1-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 19, Adon has endured back-to-back rough outings. Both of his latest two starts came against the San Francisco Giants, and Adon surrendered a total of nine runs on 10 hits in eight innings.
Adon, 23, will face the Angels for the first time in his career.
–Field Level Media