By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — With the Angels now sitting at .500, losers of six straight games and 13 of their last 17, it’s easy to forget that there once was quite the buzz surrounding the team from Anaheim. It wasn’t all that long ago that the Angels had gotten off to a nearly immaculate start to the season, racking up wins en route to going 13-3 through their first five series of the year.
Boasting the most electrifying newcomer to the big leagues in Shohei Ohtani as well as the best player in the game (and potentially the best player ever) Mike Trout, the Angels appeared to be back. The franchise that has not won a postseason game since 2009 appeared to be well on its way toward relevance.
But then they ran into the Red Sox, and everything went awry.
The Red Sox, of course, got off to a nice little start of their own, and they carried a 13-2 record when they flew out to Anaheim for a three-game set in the middle of April. As early-season series go, this was a big one.
But the Red Sox made it quite clear in those three games that they were the superior team. They won the opener 10-1 and followed it up with a 9-0 win the next day. In the series finale, the Red Sox won 8-2. It was a thorough beatdown.
To that point in the year, the Angels had outscored opponents 103-55. The Red Sox outscored Anaheim in those three games 27-3. It was grisly. And the Angels never properly recovered; after starting the year 13-3 and then getting swept at home by Boston, the Angels went 32-32 before they headed to Fenway Park this week.
It was there that the Angels would have liked to save some face, pick up a couple of wins, and maybe provide some reason for the Angels’ fan base to believe in something — anything — as the calendar turns to July.
Instead, the Red Sox won 9-1 in the opener. Then 9-6 in game two. And 4-2 in the series finale.
Add it all up, and the Red Sox outscored the Angels 49-12 across the season sweep. The Angels own the ignominious distinction of being the first opponent to ever get swept in a season series of at least six games by the Red Sox.
Perhaps the most impressive work from Boston in the six games was how the pitching staff handled Mike Trout. If you haven’t been paying attention, Trout is in the midst of one of the best seasons ever. He entered this week’s series hitting .325 with a 1.118 OPS, hitting 23 home runs, 16 doubles, and three triples while driving in 48 runs, scoring 62 runs, and successfully stealing 13 bases on 14 attempts. But Boston held Trout to just 2-for-10 (both singles) with three walks in the series. On the season as a whole, Trout batted .250 with zero extra-base hits in 20 at-bats. He did still reach base five times via walk, but the Boston pitching staff clearly contained Trout the way few teams have been able to this season.
This series had to be even more painful than the last, because the Angels actually had a chance to win two of the games. On Wednesday night, the Angels rallied back from a 6-0 hole to tie the game at six-all in the seventh inning. But the Red Sox scored twice in the eighth and tacked on another run in the ninth, with Craig Kimbrel pitching into and out of a bases-loaded situation in the eighth. In the series finale, the Angels led 1-0 after an Andrelton Simmons solo homer in the fourth, and the game remained close through the seventh inning. But Jackie Bradley Jr. belted a two-run homer over the bullpen in right field to give the Red Sox the cushion they’d need to secure the sweep. If not for a pair of incredible catches by Bradley and Andrew Benintendi, then the Angels may well have won the game. Alas.
While the Angels didn’t end up at 41-41 solely because of their performances against the Red Sox, there’s no doubt that the 0-6 record vs. Boston is the biggest stain on Anaheim’s season. Take away those six games vs. Boston, and the Angels are 41-35, with a run differential of plus-50. A plus-50 run differential would be fourth-best in the American League. Alas, teams aren’t allowed to pretend games never happened, so the Angels are 41-41 with a run differential of plus-13, sitting in fourth place in the AL West, 13.5 games out of first place and 10 games out of a wild-card spot.
(Conversely, the Red Sox’ gaudy plus-125 run differential would be just plus-88.)
Such dominance has happened before, though it’s been a while. The Red Sox went 9-1 against the Angels in 2010, helping the Angels finish the year with an 80-82 record. The Angels have gotten their share, too, as they beat up on the dreadful Bobby Valentine-led Red Sox by winning all six games vs. Boston in 2012. After that, from 2013-17, Mike Scioscia’s club went 20-13 against the Red Sox. But then this year happened.
It’s not yet July, and the Angels’ season is all but over. There are a number of reasons why that’s the case, but the dominance of the Red Sox stands out boldly as reason No. 1.