Hernández: The Angels are the funniest team in SoCal to watch

There was an unusual notation of Antonio Rendonthe name on the Angels‘Training sheet Wednesday afternoon.

“I listed him as a switch-hitter,” manager Joe Maddon said with a chuckle.

The not quite internal joke was a reference to Rendon’s homer the previous night. With the Angels leading by 11 points, rookie Reid Detmer in the process of completing positional and hitterless Brett Phillips pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning, Rendon batted from the left side for the first time in his career and promptly deposited the ball on the bleachers of the right court.

“Obviously,” Detmers said, “what he did was unreal.”

Or, for these Angels, more or less the same.

Mike Trout, Shei Ohtani and company have made the spectacular commonplace, transforming the Big A into a metropolitan dream field.

The Angels aren’t the best team in the area – they’re the Dodgers. The Angels aren’t the most popular team, that’s it the Dodgers.

What They Are The Angels are the most fun Southern California team to watch, and it’s not just because they’re not connected to Trevor Bauer.

The day after Detmers pitched their 12th no-hitter in franchise history, in a game where Trout wasn’t in the lineup and Ohtani looked gassed, the Angels nearly stole their series finale against the Rays.

Breakout star Taylor Ward, who missed the previous two games with hamstring problems, cleared a two-run short with a homer hit in the eighth inning. The Rays won the game in 10 innings 4-2, but the Angels cited their approach at the end of the inning as proof of how much it has changed since last season.

“Even when a good pitcher comes out [of the opponent’s bullpen]there’s a feeling we can do it and I think that’s what’s different this year, “Ohtani said in Japanese.” Last year, it was hard to create that kind of vibe. “

With 13 wins over a 20-day period in which they played 20 games, the Angels are # 1 in the American League West.

They are the region’s best kept secret in plain sight. The Dodgers are more balanced, but the Angels are more explosive. The Dodgers wear down their opponents. Angels sweep theirs away.

The Angels lead the majors for points scored and OPS. Their 45 homers are the most in baseball. Their 21 steals are third.

They have four players with six or more homers, including Trout with nine and Ward with seven. The Dodgers home run leader is Mookie Betts, with five.

In most of their later games, when Trout entered the batting area, Ohtani swung his club in the circle on the deck. Rendon waited behind them.

There is no part of the Dodgers lineup that is like that. The only Dodgers player who has general athleticism comparable to that of Trout and Ohtani is Cody Bellinger, who does not share the baseball acumen of the two players.

Shohei Ohtani of the Angels steals second base before a shot at Tampa Bay Rays Taylor Walls shortstop.

Shohei Ohtani of the Angels steals second base before a shot at Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Taylor Walls during the fourth inning at Angel Stadium on Wednesday.

(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Ohtani is beating .258 and Rendon .198, but the heart of the order of Angels has nonetheless begun to demonstrate how much damage they can inflict.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, Ohtani doubled up in a couple of runs to equalize a game against the Washington Nationals. Rendon followed with a single in the middle of the pitch, which allowed Ohtani to slide home to claim an away win.

In the opening of the series against the Rays the next day, Trout and Ohtani scored a goal for the sixth consecutive inning. The next inning, Trout walked with loaded bases, resulting in the first grand slam of Ohtani’s career. The Angels won 11-3.

While Detmers chased history on Tuesday night, Trout scored twice more. But the highlight of the 12-0 demolition was when Rendon climbed over the wall wearing Andrew Velazquez’s helmet.

“I guess he takes BP that way,” Maddon said.

Maddon said Javy Baez, who managed with the Chicago Cubs, used to do something similar. “I thought it was a great theater,” Maddon said. “I mean, baseball is looking for moments like that.”

Like the Dodgers, the Angels have a smart and capable front office led by Perry Minasian and Alex Tamin, who have strengthened the team’s rotation and bullpen. But the Angels have also retained some old school sensibilities.

So while the Dodgers are concerned about the disadvantage of over-extending their pitchers, the Angels are confident about what could be gained by allowing them to pitch towards the end of the inning.

Maddon was delighted to learn that Detmers pitched nine innings for the first time at any level in his no-hitter.

“Now he knows he can, so here comes the seventh inning, he’s a little unsure, [he thinks] I can fix this, “Maddon said.” That stuff matters. That stuff isn’t considered enough. “

Which is not to say the Angels pitch will be better than the Dodgers’. He will not. The Angels do not have the Dodgers weapon collection.

But this is also a reason to keep an eye on the Angels. Everyone knows where the Dodgers will be in October: the playoffs. The Angels? There might be them too. Or they could win less than half of the remaining games and miss the postseason again.