ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s not often that noise will permeate the visitors clubhouse at Angel Stadium. Usually, the shut doors are as good as soundproof. But after each of the Seattle Mariners’ wins in Anaheim over the weekend, their celebrations seeped through.
An adjacent room is where Phil Nevin conducts his postgame interviews. The room where the Los Angeles Angels manager had to confront his team’s losses and the significance of each defeat’s meaning. His team’s playoff hopes slipping while the club in the room next door felt its season have a renewed life.
Such is baseball. Two teams came into the four-game set with nearly identical records. One left legitimately in postseason contention. The other has a 2.1 percent playoff chance, according to FanGraphs.
“I know everybody is now done with us and counted us out,” Nevin said after Sunday’s series-sweeping defeat. “That’s fine. We’ve got 26 guys in there plus staff that know we have it. They know we’re still there. They know what’s in front of us.”
It’s been just six days since the Angels were the fun team in baseball. The team everyone wanted to root for. No one had counted them out as the deadline passed. Now Nevin is using an “us against the world” mindset.
Perhaps making the walls outside their clubhouse a boogeyman will do some good. Winning will be the only cure.
FINAL: Angels 2, Mariners 3 pic.twitter.com/UhMiRw06g5
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 6, 2023
“Everyone knows what we need to do,” Angels outfielder Mickey Moniak said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t done that for the last week or so. That’s on us, and it’s our job to make sure we’re ready to go (versus the San Francisco Giants). As bad as a four-game sweep sucks, it’s baseball, it’s life, you can’t change it.”
It was a painful week for the Angels. In some ways, it feels like a defining week for the Angels, if they aren’t able to make a miracle run.
But the reality is this week is not what they should look back on if they miss the playoffs for the ninth straight season.
The Angels are seven games out of a playoff spot. Here are eight games that they not only could have won, but absolutely should have won.
April 9 vs. Toronto — 12-11 Blue Jays (10 innings)
The Angels led 6-0 after four innings. But a bullpen implosion — mainly by Ryan Tepera, who allowed four runs while recording just one out — cost them the game. The Angels actually rallied for four runs in the eighth and ninth innings to tie it and go to extras, but Carlos Estévez allowed two runners to come in to score.
April 22 vs. Kansas City — 11-8 Royals
This back-and-forth game felt like it had reached its climactic moment when Matt Thaiss hit his first homer of the season to put the Angels up 8-6 in the eighth inning. They needed just three more outs against the 4-16 Royals.
José Quijada entered and everything fell apart in the ninth. Hit-by-pitch, double, single, all of a sudden, it was tied. Two walks and a hit-by-pitch later, and the Royals had the lead. Hunter Dozier knocked in two more for good measure.
April 24 vs. Oakland — 11-10 A’s (10 innings)
You simply cannot lose to the A’s. But it’s even worse when you come all the way back from 7-1 down, take the lead, then give it away. Jaime Barria walked in a run to tie the score in the ninth. Then poor defense and pitching allowed three to score in the 10th. The A’s do not have a good offense, but they sure did on this night.
May 13 at Cleveland — 8-6 Guardians
The Angels led 6-2 in the eighth inning. It took Cleveland all of 15 pitches to score five runs in the bottom of the eighth. An expedited meltdown. Tepera was designated for assignment after the game.
May 27 vs. Miami — 8-5 Marlins (10 innings)
The Angels continued to rely on a clearly frazzled Chase Silseth with a lead in a one-run game. He walked two and threw two wild pitches. It should be no surprise that the red-hot Jorge Soler gave Miami the lead with a two-run homer.
In the 10th inning, the Angels dropped a fly ball in the outfield. Then they didn’t step on home plate on an easy force play. It was an ugly way to lose.
June 17 at Kansas City — 10-9 Royals
This is probably the worst one of the season. The Angels were up 8-2 late in the game against a Royals team that had lost 10 straight. The Angels were red-hot, making a run at relevance in a way they hadn’t in years. Then Kolton Ingram allowed three runs in his MLB debut, and José Soriano allowed three runs the following inning. Chris Devenski allowed four hits and two runs in an inning.
June 23 at Colorado — 7-4 Rockies
The Angels outscored Colorado by 20 runs in this series and lost it somehow. A botched double play by Andrew Velazquez set up a grand slam by Elias Diaz as the lowly Rockies found a way to win. The only good news to come from the Angels is they would get three of the Rockies’ best hitters for themselves.
July 16 vs. Houston — 9-8 Astros
The Angels were one out away from a massive series win against the Astros to start the second half. They were up 7-3 entering the eighth. It felt comfortable. The lead slipped, but the Angels were still in control. All they needed to do was get Alex Bregman out. Instead, he hit a homer. Then Kyle Tucker did the same. All against Barria, who had bad numbers against those hitters.
What’s the point of reliving those losses? To show that four hard-fought games against the Mariners won’t be to blame for another Angels failure of a season — should that be the result.
It’s the games that they absolutely could not lose, but somehow did. These happen to every team. Heck, even the Angels have a couple of miracle comebacks this year. But far too often in 2023, they’ve been the ones giving them up. Often to teams they should beat.
It was a quiet and sullen clubhouse Sunday afternoon, and for good reason. It’s not clear if they’ve had any team meetings. Nevin said that would remain private.
The Angels have worked through adversity and losing streaks. At some point, however, overcoming adversity becomes more of an idea than a plausible reality. The Angels are nearing that point, below .500, losers of six straight with a tough schedule staring them down.
And if they can’t get back in the mix, they’ll have plenty of missed chances to look back on.
(Photo of Luis Rengifo prior to Sunday’s loss to Seattle: Ashley Landis / Associated Press)