With Justin Upton leading surge, Angels go for sweep of Mariners

MLB

The Los Angeles Angels will host the visiting Seattle Mariners in the final game of a three-game series on Sunday afternoon, with Angels manager Joe Maddon likely continuing with his latest lineup experiment.

Maddon put a slumping Justin Upton into the leadoff spot on May 23, and since then Upton has gotten hot. After an 0-for-4 performance on May 22, Upton was hitting .188 with a .661 OPS for the season. But in the past 12 games, he’s 13-for-41 with four home runs to raise his average to .219.

Upton had never hit leadoff in his 14 previous major league seasons, but has taken a liking to the spot thanks to a mindset adjustment that has paid off.

“Later in the game, I let the scoreboard and the game dictate how the at-bat goes, but to lead off the game with Shohei (Ohtani) and Anthony (Rendon) behind me, I try to set the table,” Upton said. “I’m waiting on more pitches, better pitches to hit. Getting on via a walk or getting a pitch down the middle I can get on base on. I’m definitely trying to set the table early for those guys.”

Maddon did the same thing in Tampa Bay with Evan Longoria and with the Chicago Cubs with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

“I’ve had power guys in the past struggle, and most of the time, they get moved down in the batting order, but with a guy of (Upton’s) pedigree, I wanted to move him up and give him a different mindset to work with,” Maddon said. “He’s looking more to the middle of the field and trying to get on base. He’s trying to hit singles, but he knows his power is there and he’s shown that, too. Just a different seat on the deck and a different way to look at things.”

Left-hander Patrick Sandoval (0-1, 3.80 ERA) will start for the Angels. In his only career start against the Mariners, Sandoval gave up two runs (one earned) in four innings, getting a no-decision last season.

Right-hander Logan Gilbert (0-2, 5.94 ERA) will start for Seattle, coming off his best start of the season last Monday against Oakland. He gave up two runs in six innings, striking out five, but got a no-decision.

It will be the fifth major league start for Gilbert, who made his major league debut on May 13.

Mariners manager Scott Servais, with a number of young players on the roster, has made it a point to engage with those players to help them get through their major league growing pains.

“(Gilbert) loves to hear about the game, players and certainly the players of my era, whether it’s stories about pitchers, hitters, things like that,” Servais said. “It’s fun to give back and talk to those guys about those things.”

–Field Level Media

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