ANAHEIM – It’s hard to find a better baseball player than Angel’s right fielder Taylor Ward right now.
Ward has had an astonishing start offensively this season and has almost hit the bike in a 9-5 win over the Guardians on Wednesday, dropping just a single card from performance. But he more than made up for it when he went 3-for-4 with a double in the first, a grand slam in the second, a walk in the fourth and a triple in the sixth to back Shohei Ohtani, who hit five innings and allowed two runs to pick up his second win.
Incredibly, Ward just became the second player in the modern era with a double, a triple, a grand slam and four runs in a game, joining Roger Maris in 1958, according to Stats Inc. Ward, 28, strikes an astonishing 0.395 / 531/816 with four homers, two doubles and nine RBIs through his first 11 games this season after missing eight games with a strained left groin.
“When I see him from the circle on the deck, I just get the mood he wants to get a hit every time,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I’m sure the opposing pitchers feel the same way.”
The previous selection in the first round in 2015 has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball and has strengthened the Angels’ star-studded lineup, which also includes Mike Trout, Ohtani, Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh. Ward’s starting job was not secure until veteran Justin Upton was appointed to the task late in spring training, but now Ward has been a big part of an Angels offensive that leads the Majors with 95 goals scored and is second with 25 homers.
“It’s fun to be a part of,” Trout said. “He comes in and works hard and keeps his routine and trusts it. And it pays off in the field right now. I think his mindset has really helped him.”
Ward came up on the plate in the seventh with a chance to become just the 10th player in AL / NL history to hit a cycle with a grand slam. However, Logan Allen did not manage to connect with it, as his team mates had hoped, and the ball went out.
“I was just thinking too much about it,” Ward said. “I got out of my plan and beat it up a little bit. I wish I had taken that pitch and fought a little more with him.”
Ward was moved up to the leadoff spot in the lineup on Monday due to his hot start as the Angels relegated Ohtani to No. 2 spot in the order. Ward responded by homering twice on Monday and also went 1-on-4 with a run scored on Tuesday.
He triggered a two-run rally in the first with a lead-off double by Guardian right-hander Zach Plesac after Ohtani allowed a two-run homer to José Ramírez in the top half. Ward came up on the plate again in the second with the bases filled and delivered his second grand slam of his career to place the Angels with four runs.
“Ward is really leading the way right now, my god,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Grand slam really put us on the right side of things.”
Ward showed his patience in the fourth and pulled his 11th time in 11 games. The Angels eventually filled the bases that inning, scoring a run on an RBI single from Walsh that saw Ohtani get caught in a downturn between third and home court.
The possibility of a cycle became much more realistic with Wards triple in the sixth off Allen. Ward drove a 0-1 cutter to deep center and Myles Straw could not handle it, allowing Ward to reach third place for his third career triple.
“When I realized it was not off the ball field, I turned it on,” Ward said. “I probably should have jumped out of there a little bit. When I saw that kick, I turned it on, but I was not thinking about the cycle at the time.”
And while Ward lamented that he did not get a single one in his last fight, he said he would learn from his experience and not put too much pressure on himself in future situations. He has credited a change in his mental approach for his recent success as he showed glimpses of the past year when he hit .250 / .332 / .435 with eight homers and 33 RBIs in 65 games, but now he is started saying it. all.
“Honestly, it’s something I feel it should have been happening already, but I’m here now,” Ward said. “And I’m blessed to be here and just want to keep the blinders on and stay focused this season.”