Entering September, the Angels’ second-half record was solid (26-16) but the offensive juggernaut that carried them through the season’s first three months and change was nowhere to be found. The team that averaged an MLB-best 5.1 runs per game in the first half was managing only 3.8 a game post-All-Star break. Strong pitching allowed the Halos to gain ground despite their impotence at the plate, but with Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs out for the season, the bats would have to come alive in September if the club wanted to secure the AL West title.
Does 86 runs in 10-game span qualify as coming alive? I feel like it might.
After two milquetoast losses to Astros to begin the month, the Halos put in their Game Genie and went into god mode for nearly a fortnight, mashing their way to a 10-game winning streak. The team averaged almost nine runs a contest during the stretch, never once scoring fewer than five runs and only twice plating fewer than seven. When laid out in a row–5, 7, 8, 14, 12, 9, 8, 7, 11, 5–their runs read more like hit totals than anything else. The streak matched a number of franchise records, including consecutive games (8) with 7+ runs, and consecutive games (6) with a margin of victory of four or greater. In just 10 days, the team raised its second-half scoring average by close to a full run, up to 4.7 per game, and extended its division lead to an uncatchable 11.
On the micro level, Scioscialism was in full effect during the streak. Nine Angels had at least five hits over the 10 games and six guys had 12 or more knocks. The team batted .329/.392/.541 overall in the stretch, and no player with more than four ABs failed to tally at least one base hit. Howie Kendrick was the team’s fearless leader on offense, jumping into the clean-up role and batting .500/.532/.795 with seven extra-base hits in 47 plate appearances. No one else came within seven hits of Howie, who managed to raise his OPS by 44 points. That’s not easy to do in September.
I suppose one could make the argument that the Angels peaked too soon with their early September rampage, but that kind of assumes the team has some level of control over when they play well and when they don’t. I think everyone involved would have loved to have had The Streak coincide with the start of the playoffs, but baseball just doesn’t work like that. (Unless you’re the Royals, of course.) No, The Streak didn’t catapult the Halos to a second World Series championship, but it did propel them to their first division title since 2009 and all but guaranteed they would finish the year with the best record in baseball. No reason one can’t wish for a better October outcome and also appreciate the awesomeness of this particular feat. The second-longest winning streak in franchise history deserves its day in the sun. Now if only we could convince MLB dot com to create a 10-minute montage of The Streak’s best moments.
One #SadFact for the road: All but the first game of The Streak were won sans Josh Hamilton. The idea the Angels needed his lagging bat in the lineup during the ALDS was already pretty ludicrous. When you add the fact that arguably the most productive offensive stretch in franchise history was ostensibly achieved without him just three weeks earlier? Looks real bad, Bob.
Up Next: The All-Star Game