The Los Angeles Angels will host the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night in Anaheim, Calif., with Jared Walsh expected to return to the Angels as their cleanup hitter.
Walsh was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday so he could rest, having played in 58 of the club’s first 60 games. Angels manager Joe Maddon had several options to put in the No. 4 spot, including Justin Upton, Shohei Ohtani or Anthony Rendon. Instead, Maddon went with catcher Max Stassi, who has been swinging the bat as well as any Angel of late.
Stassi went 2-for-4 with a home run in Tuesday’s 8-1 win over the Royals, one day after coming a triple short of hitting for the cycle on Monday in an 8-3 victory.
The catcher, who missed nearly a month this season because of a concussion, has made a significant difference for the club — the Angels are 10-5 in games he starts, 19-27 when he doesn’t.
“There’s a lot of offense in there,” Maddon said. “I think he’s becoming a more knowledgeable hitter. I think he’s understanding himself a little bit better. He made a definite change.
“When he first got here, there was a lag in his swing and it was almost like shallowing a golf club. He was under and trying to lift everything. Now, he’s way more direct to the ball.”
Overall, Stassi is hitting .333 with a 1.021 OPS, having seen improvement by shortening his swing.
“I’m just trying to keep it compact and keep my balance at 50-50,” Stassi said. “I don’t want to be on my backside. But yeah, so far, so good.”
Right-hander Griffin Canning (4-4, 5.82 ERA) will start on the mound for Los Angeles, coming off a loss to Seattle last Thursday when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs.
Canning is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in two career starts against the Royals. Brad Keller (6-4, 5.50) will make his 13th start of the season for Kansas City. He is 2-2 with a 2.66 ERA in five career games (four starts) against Los Angeles.
The Royals’ cleanup hitter on Tuesday was Hunter Dozier, even though Dozier’s numbers this season do not reflect those of someone normally in the No. 4 spot. Dozier, who has split time at third base and in the outfield, has been a disappointment at the plate so far this season, hitting .159 with seven homers, 19 RBIs and a .601 OPS. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and three strikeouts on Tuesday, but he had his first three-hit game of the season on Monday, giving him hope that he could begin to turn things around.
“I just have to keep telling myself the stuff I’m working on in a cage, it’s going to transfer over,” Dozier said. “I just keep taking it day by day and don’t get frustrated by the results. Just stay focused on the stuff I’m working on, because I know in the long run, it’s gonna help me out.
“Going right-center, that’s kind of my game. I know I haven’t done it this year. I’ve been thinking that way when I step in the box. It just hasn’t played out that way.”
–Field Level Media