Sat, 30 Sep 2023

Improving Taylor Ward, Angels face Cubs again

Field Level Media
07 Jun 2023, 22:05 GMT+10

Taylor Ward likely will be in left field for the Los Angeles Angels when they oppose the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday night in Anaheim, Calif.

The bigger question is, which Taylor Ward will be in the batter's box?

The Angels had high hopes for Ward after his breakout season last year when he hit.281 with 23 homers, 65 RBIs and an .833 OPS. However, his level of production had peaks and valleys throughout the season.

This season has proved to be much of the same for Ward, though the valleys have been more prevalent than the club would have hoped. After beginning the season hot -- he hit .435 (10-for-23) with two homers and a 1.197 OPS through the first five games -- he went cold.

In the remaining 24 games in April, Ward batted .145 (12-for-83) with just one homer and a .480 OPS. He was batting .220 with four homers and 17 RBIs through May 28.

Ward, though, is showing signs of turning things around, putting together a seven-game hitting streak, including going 1-for-4 with a home run on Tuesday in Los Angeles' 7-4 win over the Cubs.

Ward is hitting .367 (11-for-30) with three homers and six RBIs during the streak and is batting .241 with seven homers and 23 RBIs for the season.

Mickey Moniak has made starts in all three outfield spots and has played well, but not to the point where he would replace Ward in left field on a regular basis.

"Guys go through ups and downs," Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. "And we all saw what Taylor did last year, what he did at the beginning of this year. He's playing outstanding defense. He's been nails defensively, so he's helping us win games in different ways."

Ward wants to contribute more on the offensive side and says it's all about his mental approach at the plate.

"I'm really just trying to slow things down," he said. "I feel like I was rushing things with my load and things like that. I'm just looking to get back to how I was early on."

Solo homers from Ward and Shohei Ohtani plus a two-run single from Mike Trout helped the Angels beat the Cubs in the opener of a three-game series. The Angels will look to clinch the series win when they hand the ball to right-hander Jaime Barria (2-2, 1.59 ERA) on Wednesday.

Barria will make his third start after spending most of the season in the bullpen. He hasn't faced the Cubs in his six-year major league career.

Right-hander Jameson Taillon (1-3, 7.05) will make his 10th start for Chicago. He is 2-1 with a 6.30 ERA in four career starts vs. Los Angeles.

Taillon finally registered his first victory as a Cub in his latest outing, when he threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball to beat the San Diego Padres on Friday.

Christopher Morel sat out for the Cubs on Tuesday but could return Wednesday either as the designated hitter or in center field. He is more likely to be the DH, as Mike Tauchman is getting most of the starts in center while Cody Bellinger recovers from a left-knee contusion.

The problem for Cubs manager David Ross is that Morel is much more productive at the plate when he's also playing defense compared to when he's the DH. Morel is hitting .156 with two homers and a .604 OPS as the DH, .333 with seven homers and a 1.293 OPS when playing the field.

"I feel better when I'm playing outfield or a position than doing DH," said Morel, who recently took ground balls at first base. "If I (do poorly) one at-bat, I think too much. ... They see it, and I see it, too. In the game, I can concentrate at different points and not think too much about hitting."

--Field Level Media

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