(CBS Los Angeles) — It’s a long season, and injuries happen. The teams that adapt and have players step up can weather the storm and remain competitive. The teams that don’t often drift to the bottom of the standings and play out the season in the shadows of the ongoing pennant races. The Los Angeles Angels find themselves at this juncture not even two months into the season. How they respond to Mike Trout’s injury over the next few weeks could make or break the season.
This week’s baseball report looks at the Angels without Trout, the San Diego Padres’ impressive homestand, and Juan Soto’s gaffe that could have been much worse.
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The Angels lost their three-time American League MVP to a calf strain last week. The team soon revealed that Trout, who hurt his right calf while running the bases, will be out between six and eight weeks. The All-Star outfielder was having another MVP-caliber season at the time of the injury, slashing .333/.466/.624 with eight home runs. The Angels were 18-22 and in fourth place in the American League West at the conclusion of action on the day of the injury. They trailed the Oakland A’s by six games.
Their fortunes have worsened since. The Angels are now 20-27 and in last place in the division, trailing the A’s by seven games. While they won the game that saw Trout’s injury, they lost five of their next seven. It will take some doing for the team to remain within striking distance two months from now.
Shohei Ohtani, the team’s second-best player, will need to continue what he’s been doing. So far the two-way phenom has a slash line of .268/.319/.619. He has 14 HRs and 35 RBI. From the mound, Ohtani has a 2.37 ERA with 45 strikeouts in his 30.1 innings pitched. Those are strong stats for a designated hitter or a pitcher and simply outstanding for a player who is both.
But he’ll need help if the Angels hope to stay relevant. Trout is the team’s second outfielder to suffer an extended injury. Right fielder Dexter Fowler tore the ACL in his left knee back in April and is done for the season. Healthy Angels outfielders are not producing with the bat. Third baseman Anthony Rendon is also hitting well below his capabilities, as is second baseman David Fletcher.
Pitching remains another of team’s shortcomings, outside of Ohtani. The Angels’ two top starters sit well below league average in many categories. Dylan Bundy is 0-5 with an ERA of 6.50. Andrew Heaney is 1-3 with an ERA of 5.31.
Counting on this many players to turn their seasons around may be wishful thinking. But the Angels also need the four teams above them in the division to lose some more games. The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers may oblige. But the A’s and Houston Astros seem less likely to accommodate them.
Padres Complete 9-0 HomestandREAD MORE: NFL Week 13 AFC East Preview: CBS Boston's Levan Reid Calls AFC East Title Fight A Battle Of 'Big Brother Vs Little Brother'
A week and a half ago, the Padres were 21-17 and two games behind the Dodgers. Then they reeled off a perfect 9-0 homestand. Now 30-18, the Padres now have the best record in baseball and sit atop of the National League West, half a game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The homestand started with a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. And looking back on this run months from now, this might be when the Padres pulled their season together. Five players had recently been placed on the COVID injury list, including Fernando Tatis Jr., Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer. Yet they held off the Cardinals, 5-4, with a depleted lineup and then turned around and trounced them, 13-3, in the following game.
After completing the sweep, the Padres dispensed with the lowly Colorado Rockies, shutting them out twice. Tatis Jr. and Hosmer returned to the lineup in the third game. And they really made their presence felt in the following game, when the Seattle Mariners came to town. The Padres sank the Mariners, 16-1, with Tatis Jr. going 2-4 with a home run and 4 RBI and Hosmer going 2-5 with 2 RBI. Tatis Jr. continued his tear through the weekend, hitting 2 HRs, one being a grand slam, and 6 RBI Sunday.
Fernando Tatis Jr.'s last four games:
> 11 for 14
> 4 home runs
> 12 RBI
> 27 total bases
> A couple bat flips
> AHHHHHHHHHHHHH pic.twitter.com/iEZuR5Xqfa
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 24, 2021
But Tatis Jr. had help. Over the course of those nine wins, the Padres, as a team, slashed .288/.400/.497 with 83 hits, 11 of which were home runs. Pitchers had a collective 1.65 ERA, with 95 strikeouts and only 21 walks.
Can the Padres continue at this pace with the Dodgers in pursuit? San Diego’s streak ended Monday night on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers. They’ll look to start another streak Tuesday.
Soto Costs Team A Run
Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is one of MLB’s superstars. But he didn’t act like it in Sunday’s win over the Baltimore Orioles. In the fourth inning, Soto had a mental lapse that cost his team a run. The outfielder hit an infield pop up with two outs and Andrew Stevenson on third. Rather than run it out, Soto stood and watched, assuming it would be caught. When the ball dropped between the catcher and first baseman, he had just started down the base path. Stevenson crossed the plate, but Soto was easily thrown out to end the inning.MORE NEWS: SportsLine Week 13 AFC West Picks: 'Denver Designed Well To Stop What Kansas City Does,' Says Larry Hartstein
The run would have counted had Soto run out the popup. Manager Davey Martinez was not pleased, calling the play “embarrassing for the whole club.” He made Soto apologize to the entire team. The Nats ended up winning the game, but no thanks to Soto, who went 0-5.