Hernández: The Angels are SoCal’s most fun team to watch

There was an unusual notation of Anthony Rendon’s name on the Angels lineup card Wednesday afternoon.

“I listed him as a switch hitter,” manager Joe Maddon said with a chuckle.

The not-so-inside joke was a reference to last night’s homer by Rendon. With the Angels leading by 11 runs, rookie Reid Detmers close to completing a no-hitter, and positional player Brett Phillips pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays in the eighth inning, Rendon hit from the left for the first time in his career and immediately put the ball on the stands in right field.

“Obviously,” Detmers said, “what he did was unreal.”

Or, for these angels, more of the same.

Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Co. have made the spectacular everyday and transformed the Big A into a metropolitan dream field.

The Angels aren’t the best team around — the Dodgers are. The Angels aren’t the most popular team — the Dodgers are.

What the Angels are is Southern California’s funniest team to watch, and it’s not just because they’re not affiliated with Trevor Bauer.

A day after Detmers fielded the 12th no-hitter in franchise history, in a game where Trout wasn’t on the lineup and Ohtani looked gassed, the Angels nearly stole their series finale against the Rays.

Breakout star Taylor Ward, who missed the last two games with hamstring problems, erased a two-run deficit with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning. The Rays won the game 4-2 in 10 innings, but the Angels pointed to their late-innings approach as proof of how much has changed since last season.

“Even if a good pitcher comes out [of the opponent’s bullpen], we feel like we can do it and I think that’s what’s different this year,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “Last year it was difficult to create such an atmosphere.”

With 13 wins in 20 days, in which they played 20 games, the Angels rank first in the American League West.

They are the region’s best kept secret in plain sight. The Dodgers are more balanced, but the Angels are more explosive. The Dodgers wear down their opponents. The angels blast theirs away.

The Angels lead the majors in runs scored and OPS. Her 45 home runs are the most in baseball. Their 21 steals are the third most common.

You have four players with six or more homers, including Trout with nine and Ward with seven. The Dodgers’ home run leader is Mookie Betts at five.

In most of their recent games, when Trout has stepped into the batter’s box, Ohtani has been twirling his bat in circles on the deck. Rendon was waiting behind them.

There’s no part of the Dodgers lineup like this. The only Dodgers player with overall athletic fitness comparable to that of Trout and Ohtani is Cody Bellinger, who doesn’t share the two players’ baseball acumen.

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani steals second base before a throw at Tampa Bay Rays shortstop Taylor Walls in the fourth inning at Angel Stadium on Wednesday.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Ohtani hits .258 and Rendon .198, but the heart of the Order of Angels has nonetheless begun to demonstrate just how much damage they can do.

With two outs at the bottom of the ninth inning on Sunday, Ohtani doubled in two runs to level a game against the Washington Nationals. Rendon followed with a single to center field, allowing Ohtani to slide home for a walk-off win.

In the series opener against the Rays the next day, Trout and Ohtani hit a homer in back-to-back at-bats in the sixth inning. In the following inning, Trout went down with loaded bases and set up the first grand slam of Ohtani’s career. The Angels went on to win 11-3.

While Detmers made history Tuesday night, Trout scored twice more. But the highlight of the 12-0 demolition came when Rendon scaled the wall while wearing Andrew Velazquez’s helmet.

“I guess he takes BP like that,” Maddon said.

Maddon said Javy Baez, whom he mentored at the Chicago Cubs, used to do something similar. “I thought it would be great theatre,” Maddon said. “I mean, baseball looks for moments like that.”

Like the Dodgers, the Angels have a smart and capable front office led by Perry Minasian and Alex Tamin, who reinforced the team’s rotation and bullpen. But the Angels have also retained some old-school sensibilities.

So while the Dodgers are concerned about the downside of overextending their pitchers, the Angels are hopeful about what could be gained by allowing them to pitch in the late innings.

Maddon was pleased to learn that Detmers was pitching nine innings at each level for the first time in his no-hitter.

“Now he knows he can, so here comes the seventh inning, it’s a bit iffy, [he thinks] I can work through that,” Maddon said. “The stuff is important. The stuff doesn’t get enough consideration.”

That’s not to say the Angels will pitch any better than the Dodgers. It will not. The Angels don’t have the Dodgers’ gun collection.

But that too is a reason to keep an eye on the Angels. Everyone knows where the Dodgers will be in October – the playoffs. The angel? You could be there too. Or they could win less than half of their remaining games and miss the postseason again.

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