Anthony Rendon powers walk-off win vs. Nationals

ANAHEIM — With the Angels on the brink of losing a series to the Nationals and falling to second place in the American League West, Shohei Ohtani and Anthony Rendon had other ideas.

Ohtani smacked a game-tying two-run double off Washington closer Tanner Rainey with two outs in the ninth to tie the game at 4-4. And Rendon followed with a walk-off RBI single to center to torment his former club and lead the Angels to a thrilling 5-4 win on Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium. It helped the division-leading Halos improve to 19-11 and was a positive sign from both Ohtani and Rendon, who have scuffled a bit offensively by their standards early this season.

“That was just unlikely, improbable, especially with the way they were pitching us,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We really weren’t making any contact, let alone hard contact. But we’ve been good lately and the boys came through. Sho, who has struggled, hit that one off the wall. And then Tony squared that one up. I really liked him in that moment and he is definitely going to get some momentum in his system right there.”

The Angels entered the inning down by two runs, as they failed to get much going offensively on the afternoon. Pinch-hitter Luis Rengifo drew a one-out walk and advanced on a single from Taylor Ward. Mike Trout struck out, leaving it all up to Ohtani, who has been working to hit the ball the other way in recent games after struggling a bit at the plate.

Ohtani nearly hit it out, as he ripped an 0-1 slider off the base of the wall in center field to score Rengifo and Ward and tie the game. It was the kind of big hit that Ohtani has been looking for, as he’s batting .235/.302/.383 with four homers and 16 RBIs in 29 games this year after hitting .257/.372/.592 last year when he won the AL MVP.

Ohtani, who is due to make his next start on the mound on Wednesday against the Rays, said it was a good sign for him to continue to try to drive the ball the other way.

“The last couple games, I’ve actually been feeling better,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I’ve been getting a better angle on the balls that I’m hitting and they’re going in the air. So I think in a few more days, I should be able to get there.”

Rendon quickly ended it with a single to center field on a 1-0 fastball from Rainey, as Ohtani just barely beat the throw home from center fielder Victor Robles to give the Angels their second walk-off win of the year. Ohtani began the celebration at home plate as umpire Adam Hamari ruled him safe to end the game.

“I was just thinking about getting home,” Ohtani said. “But I felt with the way the ball landed, I knew I was going to be able to score.”

It was also the fourth walk-off hit of Rendon’s career, but it was his first since joining the Angels. And it came off a former teammate in Rainey, with whom he played in Washington in 2019, when the Nationals won the World Series.

Rendon said he wasn’t looking for a particular pitch from Rainey, but once he saw the fastball up, he jumped on it.

“I just knew he had a great fastball and a devasting slider from playing behind him,” Rendon said. “I just wanted to try to see a pitch up and get a barrel on it. But I mean, it would’ve been easier if Shohei hit it over the fence.”

Rendon, though, didn’t put any added significance to the walk-off hit, even though he’s been trying to find his way offensively this year and it came against his former team. Rendon is batting .213/.321/.362 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 26 games. And while he knows he’s capable of more offensively, he’s not lamenting it, because the team has been winning.

“I could care less,” Rendon said. “I’ll hit .200 if it means we’re still winning games. Yeah, it’s frustrating, but not many people get to feel what we felt when we won the World Series and were the last team standing. It means a lot more than any personal accomplishment, because this is a team game.”

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