ARLINGTON, Texas — The Angels’ best and worst were all on display in the sixth inning of their 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
The Angels snapped a tie with three runs on five consecutive hits to start the inning, but their quest for an even bigger inning ended with one unfortunate swing of the bat.
Max Stassi grounded into a triple play, the first time the Angels had hit into a triple play in more than four years.
They were able to shrug it off because they still won the game, thanks to Patrick Sandoval weaving around trouble in his five innings and a lockdown performance from relievers Andrew Wantz, Aaron Loup and Jimmy Herget.
For Stassi, it was just another chapter in the second half of a season that he described just a day earlier as “horrible.”
Stassi came into the game in a 4-for-72 slump. After he struck out in the second, he singled in the fourth with Matt Duffy at second, but he didn’t even get an RBI because Duffy was thrown out at the plate.
In Stassi’s next trip, he came up with runners at first and second and no outs, just after the Angels had snapped a tie with three runs. He hit a grounder to third baseman Josh Jung, who stepped on the bag and started an around-the-horn triple play.
“It’s just kind of the way things are going,” Manager Phil Nevin said. “He hit the ball good. You got to hit it hard to hit into a triple play, especially when you go the 5-4-3 route. Just an unfortunate play. He got a good pitch. He turned on and hit it well, but right at the third baseman standing on the bag. Feel for him a little bit, but that’s the way it’s going.”
It was the first time the Angels hit into a triple play since Aug. 16, 2018, also at Texas. It was the 12th triple play against the Angels in franchise history.
Duffy said he’s been talking every day with Stassi as he’s tried to get out of his slump, so he could empathize with his situation.
“It can be a pretty frustrating cycle to be in,” Duffy said. “I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. I’ll be there again if I play long enough. That’s just baseball. It’s extremely humbling and you’ve just got to ride it out. Try to compete as best you can when you get in the game. Try to get better every day. That’s the beauty and I guess the pain of baseball. If you’re not feeling good, you got another one coming right at you. But it’s also another opportunity.”
Duffy has had his own frustration this year, mostly with injury. His two-run homer in the second was the first of his three hits.
“He’s a pro hitter,” Nevin said. “Puts the ball in play. Doesn’t try to do too much. He’s obviously not a home run hitter but you know he can get into some at times. Three really good at-bats tonight. I thought (Mike Ford) had three really good at-bats as well. When your lineup gets that deep, when you got to work through the guys at the top, it makes it tough on the pitchers.”
Duffy and Ford each had his third hit in a rally that also included hits from Shohei Ohtani, Taylor Ward and Jo Adell. That produced three runs just in time to get a victory for Sandoval, who had just thrown his final pitch of the night. Sandoval gave up two runs in five innings, striking out seven and working around four walks.
Sandoval gave up a run two batters into the game after he walked Marcus Semien and gave up a double to Corey Seager. After that, though, he dominated the Rangers for four innings.
“We kind of figured out what they were trying to do at the plate, and we attacked them a little differently tonight,” Sandoval said.
In the fifth, he gave up a two-out bunt single, followed by an RBI double from Semien. Sandoval escaped with no further damage, throwing his 89th and final pitch in a 2-2 game.
“He had some high-pitch count innings, especially the one before,” Nevin said. “Just got to get through hitters quicker. That’s all. The three-ball counts were up there. But I thought he was good. Anytime you get five strong and give us a chance to win. I thought he was really good.”
Wantz then worked two perfect innings. Loup gave up a hit but got a double play to face the minimum in the eighth. Herget then worked the ninth for his sixth save of the season.