ANAHEIM — A night ago, the Angels’ comeback didn’t go as imagined. A one-run late-inning deficit turned into six, and the Angels dropped the second game of the season to the White Sox.
But Saturday was a new night — and one where a hopeful comeback turned into a reality for Angels fans, even without the help of the Rally Monkey.
Down by a run in the eighth inning against Chicago, first baseman Jared Walsh delivered the game-tying triple down the left-field line to bring home third baseman Anthony Rendon.
Upton also played a key role in the Opening Day comeback win. In another crucial eighth-inning at-bat, he drew an 11-pitch walk to load the bases for Albert Pujols, who then drove in the go-ahead run.
Prior to the comeback, the Angels had just one RBI on the night before the equalizer and go-ahead scores were brought across by Walsh and Upton.
“This is what [Upton’s] capable of doing,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s not like it’s a surprise. He’s moving well, he’s feeling really good about himself. I think I really believe he’s going to continue this for a while.”
Walsh struggled coming into the regular season. He finished Cactus League play with a .217 average, four RBIs and no home runs, but Walsh isn’t a stranger to slow starts.
It took him 13 at-bats before getting his first hit of the 2020 season. He then slugged nine home runs and drove in 26 runs en route to being named the American League Rookie of the Month for September.
“Spring Training was tough, but the season is so long I don’t buy into the high and lows,” Walsh said. “It’s a little bit of the weight off your shoulders to go out there and find a few barrels early.”
Maddon said a key for Walsh’s success is finding timing in his swing.
“[Walsh] looked really good tonight, but heads up,” Maddon said. “His hands are starting to work again. I anticipate that’s what it’s going to look like.”
A key difference in Saturday’s successful comeback as opposed to Friday was the bullpen. Starter Alex Cobb left the game after surrendering three runs in six innings, punching out seven with just one walk.
The night before, the bullpen gave up five runs, but Junior Guerra and Tony Watson combined for three shutout innings in Saturday’s win.
Maddon said Guerra is an impact arm that his bullpen can rely on regardless of the situation.
“[Guerra] truly is a guy that can start pitching [from the] middle to close a game,” Maddon said. “I’ve seen him do all that stuff, so none of it surprises me with him.”