For a team that includes Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels certainly lose a lot of games: 61 so far, with only 44 wins.
But Thursday night’s game was to be particularly infuriating.
Hosting the even worse Oakland Athletics, the Angels got two homers from Ohtani and one each from Kurt Suzuki, Taylor Ward, Jo Adell, Jared Walsh and Mickey Moniak. Seven in all, equaling the club record set in 2003.
And they still lost.
How could this have happened? How could versions of this happen so often that a tweet about the team’s futility despite its generational stars became the franchise’s calling card?
Well, it certainly didn’t help that all seven of Thursday’s explosions were solo shots – another first for a team that has grown accustomed to its uniqueness. Even then, seven points should be enough to win most ballgames. But the Angels, of course, gave up eight, most of them in a six-run third inning. Janson Junk, the team’s starter, pitched two innings and a third and was credited with allowing six earned runs.
Eighty-five teams have hit seven homers in a game, and their record is 79-6. Although the games date back to a Philadelphia A win in 1921, the losses have all come in modern times, starting in 1995. Indeed, the Detroit Tigers lost a seven-home run game, 17-14, to the Minnesota Twins last year, and even in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to give up a game despite seven long balls.
The 31 times a team hit eight or more home runs, luckily they won the game, although one of them, the 2006 Braves, needed 11 innings to beat the Cubs, 13-12, at Wrigley Field. The record for most home runs by a team in a game is still held by the 1987 Blue Jays, who hit 10 against the Baltimore Orioles on a day that season, with Ernie Whitt hitting three. The score was then closer to what one would expect: 18-3.
For many traditionalists who don’t like the way baseball has changed, Thursday night’s game might have been the ultimate example: lots of homers, but not enough baserunners. The Angels had just two more hits in the game, a single and a double, walked just two and struck out nine.
“I guess they always say solo home runs don’t beat you, but you feel like if you hit seven you could,” Phil Nevin, the Angels’ interim manager, told reporters. after the game. “It didn’t work for us.”
The team’s batting average for the game, .257, was easily the lowest in a game over seven homers. The typical average in such games is around 0.400.
The Angels are just above average in home runs this season, but rank fifth in runs scored. While Trout (currently on the injured list), Ohtani and Ward have punched in, the rest of the squad are putting up uninspiring numbers.
Of the 13 batters with 100 plate appearances, eight are hitting under .250, and some just under. Don’t pick on Walsh because there are plenty of candidates, but a .231 hitting first baseman with 20 walks at this point in the season won’t win you too many games, despite his home run of Thursday.
The Angels are below average at every non-pitching position by Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, except, unsurprisingly, center fielder (usually Trout) and designated hitter (usually Ohtani).
And as that viral tweet implied, the fact that Ohtani is putting together a huge game hardly guarantees an Angels victory. Thursday’s game was his 11th two-home run performance in the majors. The Angels are just 6-5 in those games.
The chance to see Ohtani and Trout means there are few teams that will catch the eyes of neutral fans more than the Angels. But those viewers are getting used to seeing two great players, a decent number of homers, but not a lot of wins.