The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Angels match MLB mark with seven solo homers — and still find a way to lose

Even the historic feats of Shohei Ohtani, who had two of the Angels' seven solo homers Thursday, haven't prevented the Angels from skidding toward the bottom of the American League. (John McCoy/Getty Images)
Placeholder while article actions load

With a 44-61 record despite the best efforts of reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels have found plenty of ways this season to squander a prodigious performance. However, on Thursday the team managed to unearth a new method of inflicting a mind-boggling defeat on its beleaguered fan base.

In a home game against the even-more dismal Oakland Athletics, the Angels hit a whopping seven solo home runs — and, yes, lost.

Somehow, none of the seven homers came with anyone on base. Of course, that still amounted to seven runs, which is usually enough to win a major league game. Not on Thursday, however, and not with this unfortunate lot. The final score was 8-7 in favor of Oakland.

“I guess they always say solo home runs don’t beat you, but you feel like if you hit seven, you might. It didn’t work out for us,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin.

According to ESPN, the Angels tied an MLB single-game record with their seven solo homers. They also tied a record with seven dingers in a loss.

MLB teams with at least that many homers in a game were 113-5 in those contests before Thursday. Now the Angels have lowered that winning percentage in ignominious fashion. And while we’re at it, let’s go ahead and fire up some “ 'Tungsten Arm’ O’Doyle” references.

That reference, of course, is to the fictional star for the equally fictional Akron Groomsmen whose feats on the diamond had gone unmatched until Ohtani came along, as immortalized in a 2021 tweet that continues to go viral on occasions such as Thursday’s loss. The tweet was dreamed up not by an Angels fan but a Toronto Blue Jays supporter, one who couldn’t help but notice the Southern California franchise’s penchant for wasting the extremely good work of Trout and Ohtani.

While Trout has been sidelined since mid-July with a back ailment uncommon for a baseball player — “My career isn’t over,” he declared recently, in comments that were probably a bit more ominous than he meant them to be — Ohtani again did his part Thursday by hitting two of the Angels’ seven homers.

The Japanese superstar now has 24 on the season to go with 64 RBI and an .859 on-base-plus-slugging percentage that ranks 15th in MLB. Then there are his exploits on the mound, which include a sterling 2.83 ERA and the highest strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (13.0) of any qualified pitcher.

In other words, Ohtani is making a strong case for a second consecutive American League MVP award. Trout, a three-time AL MVP, racked up 24 home runs and a .967 OPS before landing on the injured list.

Riding that star power and some solid supporting work, the Angels even got off to a 24-13 start and were in first place in the AL in mid-May. Since then, they are 20-48 and mingling among the AL cellar-dwellers. Along the way, manager Joe Maddon was fired, and on Tuesday Los Angeles took advantage of the MLB trade deadline to send a few players off to contending teams.

The Angels haven’t finished with a winning record since 2015, and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2014. They haven’t won a postseason game since 2009, the same year Los Angeles drafted Trout.

The 30-year-old center fielder is widely hailed as the best player of his era, and one of the greatest ever. Ohtani came aboard in 2018, and all he has done is draw comparisons to Babe Ruth. You know, the real-life baseball superhero of yesteryear, not the sardonic creation of one of the innumerable baseball fans flummoxed at the Angels’ ability to make history while drifting ever further into irrelevance.

Among other factoids that emerged from Thursday’s display of squandered power, it marked the first time since at least 1900 (per that a major league team hit seven solo home runs to account for all its runs.

As a number of online observers were moved to point out, you can’t make this [expletive] up.