Griffin Canning, Taylor Ward Lead Strong Showing From Homegrown Angels
ANAHEIM—The Angels had some of the most fruitful drafts of any franchise during the 2000s, including a legendary 2009 draft.
Their draftees from the 2010s have thus far been less productive. On Saturday, the club got a glimpse of better days ahead from the group.
Taylor Ward broke up Zack Greinke’s perfect game, Griffin Canning pitched six sharp innings and Michael Hermosillo hit a walkoff sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning, leading the Angels to a 5-4 win over the Astros.
The trio—all drafted between 2013-2017—helped the Angels snap a three-game losing streak on a night they didn’t have Mike Trout (paternity leave) or Shohei Ohtani (pitching Sunday) in their lineup.
“We’re just looking to contribute any way we can and the more reps we get, the more comfortable we get,” Hermosillo said. “Ward, (Matt) Thaiss, (Jared) Walsh, all those guys. I think we’re all going to have a hand in contributing to wins and being successful.”
Ward, the Angels first-round pick in 2015, struck the first blow. Greinke quickly and efficiently dispatched the Angels offense early, needing just 65 pitches to get through 5.1 perfect innings.
Ward ended that when he stroked a single to left field with one out in the sixth to break up the perfect game. Thaiss, the Angels first-rounder in 2016, followed with a single through the right side on a perfectly executed hit-and-run.
David Fletcher, another 2015 Angels draftee, lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score Ward. Brian Goodwin followed with an RBI single to score Thaiss.
In a span of four batters, the Greinke went from a throwing perfect game to departing with a 2-0 deficit.
Ward later added a triple and finished 2 for 4 with two runs scored.
“Taylor has been really swinging the bat well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s really been making a lot of great strides ... He’s just a more confident man when I talk to him right now.”
Canning, the Angels’ second-rounder in 2017, was the main reason they were still in it. The 24-year-old righthander matched zeroes with Greinke and ultimately outlasted him. Canning departed after allowing a leadoff double in the seventh and finished with six-plus innings, five hits and one run allowed, two walks and five strikeouts against the American League’s highest-scoring offense.
“I’ve always really enjoyed watching Greinke throw, so it was cool to go up with him,” Canning said. “I’m just happy I was able to keep the team around and hang in there.”
Things took a bad turn for the Angels in the ninth. Josh Reddick and George Springer homered off closer Hansel Robles to turn a 3-1 Angels lead into a 4-3 Astros lead, but Jason Castro hit an RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score 4-4 and force extra innings.
That’s when Hermosillo, a 28th-round pick in 2013, provided the finishing blow. After entering as a defensive replacement for Justin Upton in left field, Hermosillo stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th and lifted a fly ball to right field, scoring Thaiss with the winning run.
“Hermosillo coming through right there, he had a really good camp,” Maddon said. “I saw him do nothing but swing the bat well in Tempe and here. So he’s very capable of that. That should not be a surprise.”
“It was obviously awesome to be contribute,” Hermosillo said. “Any pressure situation, I just try to look at it as a great thing. You’re in a pressure situation, it means it’s something important.
After four straight losing seasons, the Angels are banking on a young wave of talent—led by Top 100 prospects Jo Adell (first round, 2017) and Brandon Marsh (second round, 2016)—to help orchestrate a turnaround in conjunction with a star-laden core of Trout, Ohtani and Anthony Rendon.
What will help make that a reality is if the club’s recent draft picks already in the majors settle in and establish themselves as productive big leaguers. Fletcher and Canning have already done so. Ward, Thaiss and Hermosillo are still trying to.
But for one day at least, the Angels got a flash of what it looks like when all of them contribute, and the result was a positive one.
“I think we’re all capable of doing those things,” Hermosillo said. “It’s just one of those things you pass it on to the next guy and have trust they’ll get it done.”