Alexander: Losing streak snapped, can Angels regain their mojo?

ANAHEIM — So, which way do the Angels go from here?

They won a game Thursday night, after a club-record 14 straight losses, but all is not necessarily copacetic. The New York Mets showed up Friday night with the National League’s best record and proceeded to smack the Angels around, 7-3, even with Brandon Marsh slugging two home runs for the home team.

It is easy to say they’ll be all right once they get through this rugged stretch of the schedule, a 19-game meat grinder against six teams that enter Saturday a combined 77 games over .500, three of which lead their divisions.

There have been a lot of facets in this skid that took the Angels from two games out of first place to nine games out of first and 3½ out of a wild-card spot in the span of 18 days.

They’ve been shorthanded, with third baseman Anthony Rendon only returning from a wrist injury Friday night. Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout was still another day away from returning back from a groin strain (after one of the worst slumps of his career during the bulk of the losing streak), and outfielder Taylor Ward is expected back soon.

They’ve played, as mentioned above, a difficult schedule – swept by Toronto at home and the Yankees and the Phillies (who got on a hot streak after firing the manager) on the road, and losing three straight to the Boston Red Sox before breaking through Thursday night.

After the Mets this weekend and the Dodgers in the two-game L.A. segment of the Freeway Series on Tuesday and Wednesday, they’ll have a chance to get well with eight against the Seattle Mariners, four against the Kansas City Royals and three against the Chicago White Sox, all currently under .500.

(Of course, so are they.)

But with all of that, as well as adjusting to a managerial change of their own, they seem to have maintained a consistency of effort and attitude, and players don’t seem to be hanging their heads or sulking. While most ballplayers understand it’s a 162-game marathon and June is still early, there have been plenty of instances over the years where attitudes cratered and a tailspin spiraled out of control.

“The thing I’m most proud of these last two weeks is they showed up with the same attitude every day expecting to win, knowing we’re a good team and knowing one win’s going to get us out of this,” interim manager Phil Nevin said. “It doesn’t mean you’re just going to go off and rattle off a bunch of wins. But I thought, other than the one inning (the sixth Friday night, when Jimmy Herget couldn’t get out of the inning and the Mets turned a 4-2 game into a 7-2 game), we played a good game today.

“You understand we’re where we’re at, and it hurts to lose. You respect that as a coach, as a manager, that they care.”

Marsh said the players “kept the energy and the vibes up in here, because I feel like once you lose that it’s pretty hard to come back from that. We all kept believing in each other and just trusted in the process and knew it would come back around eventually. So we just kept our head down, just kept working. … We’re here to win as many ballgames as possible. So we’re all pulling for each other, rooting for each other, trying to pick each other up, especially when the times are bad.”

It’s probably not a bad thing to remember that feeling after Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Red Sox, and the celebration in the clubhouse afterward.

“Just walking into the clubhouse (Friday) afternoon felt a lot better,” Marsh said. “It’s just like a weight was lifted off of our shoulders. But (through) the good and the bad, we gotta turn the page and keep going on, keep going to the next obstacle. … We’re on to tomorrow.”

Bottom line: Can they turn this around and become one of those unlikely success stories, like the 19-31 Washington Nationals of 2019, or the 2021 Braves who were three games under .500 on Aug. 1 and ended it as World Series champs?

Or maybe this is the better question: Who are the real Angels? The ones who were 27-17 on May 24 or the ones who were 1-15 since then through Friday night? The sneaking suspicion here is that it’s the former, but they now will have to prove it to the world.

“I’ve been around some winning teams the last four or five years” as Yankees third base coach, Nevin said. “And I certainly think that this team is in that category. We’re about ready to get pretty healthy. And I think the guys know that. They sense that, you can sense some excitement in that. And, I think that … we’re going to have some fun the next two to three weeks.”

If they do, that 14-game losing streak will be just a bad memory. If not? Joe Maddon’s firing might be only the first of the changes in Anaheim.

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