It takes a lot to turn the spotlight of the Los Angeles Angels away from Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout. You could even say that something like a change is needed – the field Reid Detmers, a rookie southpaw, pitched so spectacularly at the Tampa Bay Rays at Angel Stadium on Tuesday night.
Detmers, 22, who just made his 11th career start, captured the must-see last moment in an Angels season gaining momentum. He struckout only two batters in a 12-0 victory in which Trout hit two homeruns and Anthony Rendon, a righthanded batter, hit a homerun from the left.
After driving eight quiet innings, Detmers had to wait for his team’s attack in an extended bottom of the eighth. He showed no evidence of jitters or jinx when he finally came back to the mound and eliminated Vidal Bruján on a pop error to the catcher and outfielder Kevin Kiermaier grounded out to second. He then stamped his name in the record books and registered the 12th no-hitter in Angels history by triggering another ground ball, this one from Yandy Díaz.
It was the second no-hitter in the majors this season, after five Mets pitchers combined one last month. Last year, MLB pitchers registered nine no-hitters, breaking a one-season record set in 1884.
“Getting the last one out was the coolest thing,” Detmers said after joining the exclusive club. “It’s just something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little kid. I didn’t think it would ever happen.”
The long wait for things to wrap up came after the game took a turn toward the absurd. Trailing 8-0 in the eighth inning, Tampa Bay moved Brett Phillips, the team’s brave outfielder and potential pitcher, from right field to the mound for the clean-up duty.
The Angels scored four runs against Phillips and collected five basehits to put Detmers on the bench. Trout and Rendon’s Phillips home runs each came from 54-mile-per-hour sliders.
In Rendon’s case, an unlikely record was set: he had appeared 4,528 times as a righthanded batter before homering in his first at bat from the left side of the plate. Angels Manager Joe Maddon said Rendon had been experimenting with hitting from the left side in the batting practice. He had been a full-time right-handed batter since at least his days at Lamar High School in Texas.
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“I thought it was great theatre. Baseball is looking for such fun moments,” Maddon said of Phillips’ adventure on the mound, adding: “It was a cool inning. I was just worried it was taking too long and Reid was sitting on the couch thinking about it.”
Phillips took the moment step by step.
“Honestly I didn’t even know it was him until he went over the record and I saw his last name,” he said of Rendon.
After Phillips came out of eighth, Detmers made quick work of Tampa Bay.
The Angels’ top pick in the 2020 MLB draft, Detmers started this season as Baseball America’s top-ranked left-handed pitcher. He was 1-1 with a 5.32 ERA in five starts that started on Tuesday and had worked with Angels pitching coach Matt Wise and team assistant pitch coach Dom Chiti to better place his inside fastball to right-handed hitters and worked his change-up out of his fastball.
“If he learns to do that regularly, with the other things he has, that’s going to be a big part of his success,” Maddon said.
That, in turn, could be a huge part of the Angels’ success. That the spotlight swings to the mound this evening in Anaheim is an encouraging development for the Angels, whose full bat and gun-less status has kept them out of the playoffs for the past decade since 2014.
The Angels, 21-11 after Tuesday’s game, continued to lead the AL West, one game ahead of the Houston Astros. In Wednesday’s action, they were 10 games over .500 for the first time since April 14, 2018, when they were 13-3.
General Manager Perry Minasian made it a point to acquire a certain type of pitcher last winter, adding Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen as free agents. He wanted starting pitchers who are aggressive to set the tone for his own youth like Detmers and Patrick Sandoval.
Detmers, who was drafted by the Angels from the University of Louisville as the 10th overall pick, had a batting average of .053 in the lefthanded game. He had thrown his curveball 24.2 percent of the time and had kept opponents on the field at 0.125 batting average.
Despite his success with his curve, his inability to consistently place his fastball was the reason his results were mediocre. But he fired every cylinder against the Rays. He said he started to feel something special in the air in the sixth inning and indicated that he was almost going numb.
“I just blacked out, I don’t know,” he said, adding to the Angels lineup: “Our guys did a great job. They hit the ball all over the place. They just did something they do. They’ve made tons of plays for me.”
It was a memorable week at Angel Stadium. On Monday, Ohtani hit a grand slam – his first as a professional in the United States or Japan. Then came Detmers. His fastball topped out at 154 mph and his curve dropped to 73 mph, with the differential keeping Tampa Bay off balance all night.
The 108-pitch complete game was the longest outing of Detmers’ career. He competed with single-game career highs of six innings and 97 pitches.
The only heart-pounding moment came in the seventh inning when, with one out, first baseman Jared Walsh failed to field a Phillips ground ball. It was judged a mistake and history marched on.