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OC Register: Taylor Ward just misses cycle in Angels’ victory over Guardians

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ANAHEIM ― The Angels employ one baseball player who signed the most lucrative contract ever and another who recently graced the cover of Time Magazine. Neither of these men – Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, respectively – has been the team’s hottest hitter for the first month of the 2022 season.

That would be Taylor Ward, who batted in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 9-5 victory over the Cleveland Guardians needing a single to hit for the cycle. Ward didn’t complete the task – he flew out to deep right field – but what happened next demonstrated just how magnetic the 28-year-old right fielder has become at Angel Stadium: roughly half of the remaining crowd streamed for the exits.

Ward’s grand slam in the second inning broke open the game and allowed Ohtani (2-2) to earn a victory for his five innings of work on the mound. He also tripled in the sixth inning and doubled to lead off the game.

Ohtani went 3 for 5 at the plate with an RBI, becoming the first Angels pitcher to collect three hits and a win since Jarrod Washburn in 2001. The Angels (12-7) have won four consecutive games and enter Thursday’s series finale in first place in the American League West for only the third day this season.

Ward leads the team in batting average (.395), on-base percentage (.531) and slugging (.816). He has supplanted Ohtani as the team’s leadoff hitter and added potency to a lineup that is missing steady infielder David Fletcher.

Moreover, he is finally delivering on the potential of a former first-round draft pick (2015) who has struggled to hit consistently since turning professional.

Ohtani labored through a 25-pitch first inning. He walked the leadoff hitter, Myles Straw, before serving up a two-run home run to Jose Ramirez. Ramirez also hit a two-run homer against reliever Andrew Wantz in the eighth inning.

The Angels tied the score at 2-2 in the bottom of the inning. Ward scored on an RBI double by Trout, who later scored on a single by Anthony Rendon.

An error and two singles by the bottom of the Angels’ lineup – Jack Mayfield, Max Stassi and Tyler Wade – set up Ward’s grand slam in the second inning, a no-doubter to left field.

Ohtani seemed to settle in from there before an announced crowd of 28,557. He allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four on 86 pitches.

More to come on this story.

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