Angels, Rangers close series, look to what’s ahead

The Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers will wrap up their three-game series Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif., both teams trying to finish the first half strong while having different objectives after the All-Star break.

The Rangers are the defending World Series champions and despite a disappointing first half, they still want to make a run at the playoffs. They’ve won five in a row.

The Angels, however, long have been out of contention and will look to make improvements focusing on the long term. They’ve lost three straight and eight of their past nine games.

One move the Angels are expected to make is to trade closer Carlos Estevez, whose contract expires at the end of the season. And coming off being named the American League reliever of the month for June, Estevez is drawing plenty of interest.

Estevez was 8-for-8 in save opportunities in June and did not allow a run in 10 innings. Overall, he has a 2.89 ERA and 16 saves.

A trade of Estevez would open the door for right-hander Ben Joyce to eventually become the club’s closer, considering the progress the hard-throwing 23-year-old has made this season.

Joyce’s four-seam fastball has touched 103 mph this season, but that’s nothing new. He set a collegiate record for the fastest pitch recorded at 105.5 mph while pitching for the University of Tennessee.

What has made a difference for Joyce this season is the development of a new pitch — he calls it a “splinker” — a combination of a splitter and sinker. He first threw it in a game on June 14 against the San Francisco Giants and hasn’t allowed a run since, throwing 12 1/3 scoreless innings over nine appearances, including two scoreless innings in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss. Overall, he’s 1-0 with a 3.14 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings.

The purpose of the splinker is to get ground balls and reduce his pitch count, instead of relying on the strikeout.

“It’s very valuable,” Joyce said. “I want to be able to throw back-to-back or three days in a row, so quick ground-ball outs will always be a good thing. It’s been very beneficial to have that in the arsenal.”

And it is just what he needed to be considered a candidate for the closer’s spot.

“He’s growing, man,” Angels manager Ron Washington said. “He’s starting to believe in himself and his ability to throw the ball over the plate. If he can do that, he’s going to be a real good one.”

Right-hander Griffin Canning (3-9, 4.87 ERA) will make his 19th start of the season Wednesday for the Angels, coming off a loss to the Chicago Cubs in which he gave up four runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings of a 5-1 loss on Friday.

Canning is 2-3 with a 5.70 ERA in seven appearances (five starts) against the Rangers.

Right-hander Michael Lorenzen (5-4, 3.21) will make his 16th start of the season for Texas. He’s coming off a 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday after throwing five scoreless innings. He allowed only one hit but he walked five.

Lorenzen is 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA in seven career games (three starts) against the Angels.

Lorenzen was a last-minute signing by the Rangers, who gave him a one-year, $4.5 million deal at the close of spring training. The Rangers needed depth considering injuries to starters Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Tyler Mahle.

Lorenzen admitted to being bothered that it took so long to get a deal, and was hoping to get a long-term contract, especially considering he was an All-Star in 2023. Even though he had a late start to the season, he ranks second on the club with five wins.

“I’m grateful for this chip on my shoulder,” Lorenzen said. “I think maybe if I got the deal that I wanted, maybe I’d be comfortable, and then I’m satisfied, but the quote of, ‘Good is the enemy of great.’ So maybe I would have been satisfied. But for me, I looked at that, and God had more in store for me.”

–Field Level Media