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OC Register: Slumping Taylor Ward gets Angels started with 3-run homer

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ST. LOUIS — Taylor Ward’s forgettable April gave way to an encouraging start to May.

Ward hit a three-run home run in the first inning of the Angels’ 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Ward came into the game hitting .208 with a .631 OPS, a disappointing start after he posted an .833 OPS last season.

After a good week to begin the season, he was slumping badly enough that Manager Phil Nevin dropped him from the leadoff spot on Saturday. Nevin said he actually thought Ward’s at-bats had been better with men on base, so putting him lower in the lineup might help.

He came to the plate in the first inning with the Angels leading 1-0 and runners at first and second. Cardinals lefty Steven Matz threw him a changeup at the bottom of the zone and Ward yanked a line drive over the left field fence, his second homer since April 4. The ball left his bat at 111.4 mph.

The homer gave Patrick Sandoval a 4-0 lead before he threw his first pitch of the night.

Sandoval pitched well enough to hold the lead and pick up the victory, but he could have been more efficient with his pitches to save some work for the bullpen.

Sandoval needed 53 pitches to get through the first three innings, even though he’d just issued one walk and faced 10 batters. In the fifth, he gave up a run on two hits and a walk. He was pulled after allowing a leadoff double and a walk to start the sixth, having recorded just 15 outs with 98 pitches.

Right-hander Chris Devenski picked up the slack for Sandoval by getting the next six outs on just 17 pitches. Devenski, a former All-Star reliever whose career has been derailed by injuries, has not allowed a run in three innings so far with the Angels.

Left-hander Matt Moore and right-hander Carlos Estévez handled the final two innings to secure the Angels’ second straight victory.

More to come on this story.

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