Taylor Ward's new leadoff spot leads to two homers in Angels' win over Guardians

Angels’ Taylor Ward drops his bat as he strikes a two-run crowning achievement throughout the seventh inning versus the Cleveland Guardians on Monday at Angel Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Angels moved Taylor Ward into the leadoff area Monday night, thinking the table-setting abilities he showed while collecting a .528 on-base portion and 10 strolls in his very first 8 video games would be a great fit ahead of Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout in the lineup.

“Yeah, they didn’t clarify that,” Ward stated, when advised that a leadoff player’s task is to get on base. “Maybe tomorrow.”

Ward smacked a solo crowning achievement to right-center field in the 5th inning and a two-run shot to left-center in the seventh to lead the Angels to a 3-0 success over the Cleveland Guardians in a vigorous 2 hours and 22 minutes prior to a crowd of 23,099 in Angel Stadium.

“I just wanted him to get on base,” Angels supervisor Joe Maddon stated. “I said nothing about cleaning them up.”

The Angels took a 1-0 lead in the 5th when Ward struck a full-count fastball from Shane Bieber, the 2020 American League Cy Young Award winner, off the high wall in right-center field for a solo homer, the ball hardly clearing the glove of jumping center fielder Myles Straw.

Max Stassi led off the seventh with a single and took 2nd on Tyler Wade’s sacrifice bunt. Ward then worked another complete count from Bieber prior to tearing into an 85-mph cut-fastball that was right over the heart of the plate.

“It’s cool — honestly, I had no idea,” Ward stated of his very first profession multihomer video game. “I just found two barrels and got lucky with it.”

Maddon and pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who hammered out control issues to toss 6 shutout innings in which he enabled 3 hits, set out 3 and strolled 4, stated Ward’s success has little to do with luck.

“It’s incredible,” Lorenzen stated. “His at-bats are some of the best I’ve ever seen, to be honest. Even in spring training, his takes were incredible. If I were to start hitting again, I’d probably try to be like him. It’s been a huge eye-opener for me to watch him go about his business.”

Ward was a first-round choice of the Angels in 2015, however he bounced in between triple A and the major leagues from 2018-2021, playing in just 159 video games for the Angels. But he has actually constantly revealed excellent plate discipline, and he has actually grown much more comfy going deeper into counts.

“He’s had a really good track record historically,” Maddon stated. “The thing is, it doesn’t bother him [to go deep into counts]. He’s just looking for good pitches to hit. Bieber got him to chase a couple of early, which you don’t normally see him do, but then he eventually figured him out.

“But the count doesn’t matter. He’s gonna get that same A hack off, and he’s going to normally lay off the bad pitches and swing at the good ones, and that’s what he did tonight.”

Angels' Taylor Ward is congratulated by Shohei Ohtani after hitting a solo home run.

Angels’ Taylor Ward, right, is praised by Shohei Ohtani after striking a solo crowning achievement throughout the 5th inning versus the Cleveland Guardians on Monday. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

After Ward’s very first homer, Cleveland threatened in the top of the 6th when Amed Rosario led off with a double off the left-center field wall and Jose Ramirez strolled.

But Lorenzen rebounded from a three-ball count to set out Franmil Reyes with a nasty full-count, 93-mph sinker, the Guardians designated player smashing his bat into the ground in aggravation, and got Josh Naylor to ground dramatically to shortstop Wade, who began an inning-ending double play.

“Yeah, you can’t allow that to turn into a bigger inning,” Lorenzen stated. “So I just I trusted my sinker and I just kept throwing it to Franmil, and thankfully I was able to get the strikeout.”

The Angels stopped working to capitalize Mike Trout’s leadoff check-swing triple that snuck by very first baseman Owen Miller and rolled down the right-field line in the bottom of the 6th.

With the infield in, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon both grounded out to 2nd, Trout holding at 3rd. Matt Duffy strolled and took 2nd on a wild pitch, however Jo Adell popped out to very first to end the inning.

But Ward provided the Angels more breathing space with his 2nd homer, and Mike Mayers, Ryan Tepera and Raisel Iglesias each tossed ideal relief innings to liquidate the win.

Ward likewise made a great play in best field, varying into the space and towards the wall to capture Straw’s drive with a runner on very first base and no outs in the 3rd.

“I think that was a huge play in the game for me, as well, because that’s probably a run, and it’s a 1-1 game, and you know the at-bats are going to be different,” Lorenzen stated. “So Taylor, in more ways than one, won the game for us tonight.”

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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