The Angels hit seven home runs but still lost to Oakland

For a team with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels certainly lose a lot of games: 61 so far, with only 44 wins.

But Thursday night’s game was especially exciting.

The Angels, who host the even worse Oakland Athletics, got two homers from Ohtani, and one each from Kurt Suzuki, Taylor Ward, Joe Adel, Jared Walsh and Mickey Moniak. The total was seven, tying the club record set in 2003.

And they still lost.

How could this have happened? How can versions of this happen so often that a tweet about a team’s futility despite a generation of stars has become the franchise’s calling card?

Well, it certainly didn’t help that all seven of Thursday’s blasts were solo shots — another first for a team accustomed to its singularity. Even then, seven runs should be enough to win most ballgames. But the Angels, of course, gave up eight, most of them in a six-run third inning. Starter Johnson Junk pitched the second and third innings and was credited with allowing six earned runs.

Eighty-five teams have hit seven homers in a game and their record is 79-6. Although the streak dates back to a Philadelphia A’s win in 1921, all losses since 1995 have come in the modern era. In fact, the Detroit Tigers lost a seven-homer game 17-14 to the Minnesota Twins last year. And even in an epidemic-shortened 2020 season, the Toronto Blue Jays managed to drop a game despite hitting seven long balls.

All 31 times a team had eight or more homers, luckily, it won the game, though one of them, the 2006 Braves, needed 11 innings to beat the Cubs, 13-12, at Wrigley Field. The 1987 Blue Jays hold the team record for most home runs in a game with 10 when Ernie Witt tripled one day against the Baltimore Orioles that season. The score then was as one would expect: 18-3.

For many conservatives who don’t like the way baseball is changing, Thursday night’s game may be the ultimate example: lots of home runs, but not enough baserunners. The Angels had just two hits in the game, a single and a double, drew just two walks and struck out nine.

“I think he always thinks solo home runs don’t beat you, but if you hit seven, you think you can,” Angels interim manager Phil Nevin told reporters after the game. “It didn’t work for us.”

The team’s batting average for the game, .257, was easily the lowest in seven-homer-plus games. A common average in such games is around .400.

The Angels are above average in homers this season, but fifth last in runs scored. While Trout (currently on the injured list), Ohtani and Ward are hitting, the rest of the team is putting up uninspiring numbers.

Of the 13 batters with 100 plate appearances, eight hit less than .250, and some a little less. Walsh shouldn’t be picked, as there are many candidates, but a first baseman hitting .231 with 20 walks at this point in the season isn’t going to win you too many games, despite his home run on Thursday.

The Angels are below average at every nonpitching position in Baseball Reference’s version of WAR, including, surprisingly, center field (usually Trout) and designated hitter (usually Ohtani).

And as that viral tweet indicated, Ohtani’s big game doesn’t guarantee an Angels win. Thursday’s game was his 11th two-homer performance in the majors. The Angels are just 6-5 in those games.

The chance to see Ohtani and Trout means there are few teams that grab the eyeballs of neutral fans more than the Angels. But those viewers are getting used to seeing two great players, a decent number of home runs, but not a lot of victories.

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