For a team that boasts Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels sure lose a lot of games: 61 so far, with only 44 wins.
But Thursday night’s game had to be especially grim.
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 total, tying the club record set in 2003.
And they still lost.
How could this happen? How could versions of this happen so often a tweet about team futility despite the stars of his generation has he become the calling card of the franchise?
Well, it certainly didn’t help that all seven of Thursday’s blasts were solo — yet another first for a team accustomed to its singularity. Even then, seven runs 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, went two and a third innings 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 are back to a Philadelphia A’s victory in 1921, the losses have all come in the modern era, beginning in 1995. Indeed, the Detroit Tigers lost a seven-pitch game, 17-14, to the Minnesota Twins just last year, even in the pandemic-With shortened 2020 season, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to lose a game despite hitting seven long balls.
All 31 times a team had eight or more homers, fortunately, it 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 one game is still held by the 1987 Blue Jays, who hit 10 against the Baltimore Orioles in one day that season, with Ernie Witt hitting three. The score then looked more like what you’d expect: 18-3.
For many traditionalists who don’t like the way baseball is changing, Thursday night’s game may have been the ultimate example: lots of home runs, but not nearly enough baserunners. The Angels had just two other hits in the game, a single and a double, drew just two walks and struck out nine times.
“I guess they always say home runs don’t win you, but you feel like if you hit seven, you might,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin told reporters after the game. “It didn’t work out for us.”
The team’s batting average for the game, .257, was easily the lowest in a seven-homer plus game. The typical average in such games is around .400.
The Angels are slightly above average among similar teams this season, but rank fifth from last in runs scored. While Trout (currently on the injured list), Ohtani and Ward are hitting, the rest of the team is putting up uninspiring numbers.
Of the 13 batters with 100 plate appearances, eight are hitting under .250, and some well under. Not to pick on Walsh, because there are plenty of candidates, but a first baseman hitting .231 with 20 walks at this point in the season isn’t going to win you too many games, his home run on Thursday notwithstanding.
The Angels are below average at every non-pitching position Baseball Reference’s version of WARexcept, unsurprisingly, center field (usually Trout) and designated hitter (usually Ohtani).
And as that viral tweet implied, Ohtani having a huge game doesn’t guarantee the Angels a win. Thursday’s game was his 11th two-homer performance in the majors. The Angels it’s only 6-5 in these 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 used to seeing two great players, a decent number of home runs, but not many wins.