This season has not been the kindest to Taylor Ward. The way he’s closing it out, though, shows he’s a player who still could be worthy of praise in seasons to come.
“I’ve learned a lot this year,” Ward said this month. “It started off really hot and kind of cooled off. Just puts a season in perspective of how things can go and how it can change drastically.
“Probably take a few weeks off [when the season ends] and then focus on getting bigger, stronger, faster. I think that’s gonna be the biggest thing for me is to continue to workout well [in the offseason] and eat healthy and really just get back to being healthy.”
Ward has been on a tear through September.
He went two for four with a pair of singles and also stole a base in the Angels’ 4-3 win over the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.
Through his last 22 games before Tuesday, he batted .325 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .926. He had four doubles and four home runs in his 25 hits in that span, contributing 13 RBIs and 13 runs.
His last hitting streak, which lasted nine games and ended Saturday, included his ninth three-for-four game of the season, his 30th multi-hit game of the year, and a two home run game. These numbers pale in comparison with the trajectory he was on in May before injuries slowed him down.
Ward had been having the best start of his career, during a season he opened nursing a groin injury, before a neck stinger May 20 and a mild right hamstring strain June 3 hampered him and eventually sidelined him for almost half of June.
Before going on the injured list, Ward was batting .333 with a 1.087 OPS — he had an MLB-leading 1.197 OPS at one point — and was a solid All-Star candidate. Hitting coach Jeremy Reed still believes an All-Star berth is in Ward’s future.
“I thought he was fully capable of having a spot on that roster,” Reed said this month. “It was one chance that isn’t going to be just one chance. It’s going to be multiple opportunities for having the chance to play in that game.”
Ward’s return from the IL on June 14 wasn’t a full return to form, and as the season continued, fatigue wore him down more.
“Injuries I think took a toll on things, but just trying to stick with the process and continue to trust your ability even if you don’t feel 100%,” Ward said. “You gotta kind of convince yourself that everything is fine. Try not to think about it too much. That was one thing I kind of learned a little bit, just not to worry about it and try to focus on what you need to do when you’re in the box.”
In the two months (June 14-Aug 14) after he returned from the IL, Ward was inconsistent at the plate, batting .222 with a .630 OPS.
“You really spend most of your time trying to figure out what the problem is,” Ward said. “You want to still be yourself, and it’s just small tinkering here and there instead of overhauling something.”
Of Ward’s slump, Reed said: “There’s also some adjustments that pitchers make and then injury and the fatigue and the length of the season, they’re all factors. You see [Mike Trout], you see [Shohei Ohtani], you see the players they are and they go through it. They all go through different stretches.
“It’s really, ultimately about how short you can keep the bad streaks and how long you can stretch the good streaks. It’s just good to see him tap into his full capability for a good stretch and now we need to minimize the other stretches.”
Jo Adell lifts Angels in victory
Jo Adell’s RBI single in the eighth inning — which scored Matt Duffy, who reached base after getting hit by a pitch — was the tiebreaking hit and propelled the Angels to a victory over the Athletics.
It wasn’t Adell’s only big moment of the night. In the fifth inning, he robbed Dermis Garcia of a potential home run, leaping up along the left-field wall to make the catch.
He cheered in celebration of the play and received applause from Patrick Sandoval, who had already given up three runs.
Sandoval went 5 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and three runs.
All three of the A’s runs scored in the second inning. But the Angels tied it up with three of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Mike Ford and Duffy got back-to-back hits off A’s starter James Kaprielian. Matt Thaiss drove in the first runner, Ford, on a single of his own. Duffy was driven in on a sacrifice fly by Livan Soto, and Thaiss was brought in on Luis Rengifo’s single.
Soto, who has been having an exciting entrance to the big leagues this month, also hit his first career triple in the sixth.
Anthony Rendon update
Anthony Rendon took live pitches from three Angels minor leaguers, Caden Dana, Chase Chaney and Mason Albright, before Tuesday’s game.
“He swung the bat good, he felt good,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow going in. We’ll have some pitchers here that are available to throw to him again tomorrow if he feels up for it.”
The plan is for him to continue taking live pitches as part of his progression.
There are eight games remaining this season.
Archie Bradley’s return
Relief pitcher Archie Bradley was activated from the injured list before Tuesday’s game, nearly three months to the day from when he fractured his elbow falling over the dugout railing trying to get to a brawl between his team and the Seattle Mariners.
“Even in those first couple of days after breaking it, I didn’t think I’d be standing here pitching this season,” Bradley said. “I’m just happy that I was able to recover and be here and be with the guys and close the season in the big leagues.
“When I lay my head down at night, I still think about the season and the impact I could’ve had,” he said. “Not saying that things would’ve been different, but I think I bring something to the table. So it starts with showing Perry [Minasian], show the Angels that I’m still a good quality major league pitcher.”
Bradley, who signed a one-year deal with the Angels, becomes a free agent after this season.