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Angels' five-game winning streak ends, but this is why they aren't worried

Angels' Mike Trout runs to first base after hitting a single

It was about this same time last season the Angels were in first place in the American League West with an 18-10 record and a 11/2-game lead on the Houston Astros.

A year later, and for all the struggles the Angels experienced through the first month of the 2023 season, they are again in position to stake a first-place claim in their division despite the end of their five-game winning streak.

Before Saturday’s 10-1 loss to the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium, manager Phil Nevin highlighted the team’s consistency lately, as well as games falling in the Angels’ favor, as reasons the team has made progress. Other factors, such as the bullpen’s strength and the team’s overall fight, Patrick Sandoval said, have also played big roles — although Saturday’s game ended in a blowout after a rough top of the ninth inning from Tucker Davidson that forced position player Brett Phillips to the mound.

But what makes this season’s progress more sustainable, and what all those answers have in common, is the team’s depth. The players general manager Perry Minasian sought during the offseason, and even the ones who improved within the minor league system, have fortified the Angels.

“The depth,” three-time American League most valuable player Mike Trout said before Saturday’s game. “Not taking anything away from the guys we had last year. If guys need off days, keeping everybody fresh, I think that’s been key and it’s been paying off [this season].”

Added right fielder Taylor Ward: “The biggest thing for us maintaining where we’re at is health.”

Take, for example, the games the Angels have played without two of their star position players.

Shohei Ohtani flies out to left field during the first inning against the Texas Rangers on Saturday at Angel Stadium.

Before Saturday, third baseman Anthony Rendon had sat out nine games either to rest or to serve a suspension. The Angels went 6-3 in his absence, with Gio Urshela, a natural third baseman, and Luis Rengifo playing the position.

Trout sat out three games on scheduled rest days, with Phillips and Rengifo filling in, and the Angels won all three.

The addition of Zach Neto a few weeks into the season as the everyday shortstop also bolstered the infield, Nevin said.

“It's kept from having to bounce Gio around the field as little as possible ... same with [Brandon] Drury,” Nevin said. “So I think it's just solidified what we can do out there.”

The early injuries and ailments have not derailed the Angels’ season.

Max Stassi (family emergency/ hip strain) started the season on the injured list, but Logan O’Hoppe filled the primary catcher role with ease and provided a key big bat. After O’Hoppe had surgery for a torn labrum on April 25, the Angels called up Chad Wallach to split catching duties with Matt Thaiss.

Both have held their own at the position while also contributing offensively and in key moments. Wallach, for example, hit a momentum-changing RBI double in Friday’s win.

Chad Wallach scores as Texas catcher Jonah Heim stands at the plate

José Quijada and Austin Warren will not pitch again this season, needing Tommy John surgery. Chase Silseth was called up from triple A on April 26 to help fill out the bullpen after Warren went down. Chris Devenski also came up on April 29 for Quijada. The bullpen also recently lost Aaron Loup, who was put on the IL Friday because of a hamstring strain.

Coming into Saturday, the bullpen had the third-best ERA (2.85) in the majors.

“It’s not just one guy, it’s a different guy every night stepping up,” Trout said. “It’s a group effort from the lineup to the bullpen. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.