As a member of the San Diego Padres last year, Huston Street couldn’t believe how much the Los Angeles Angels struggled. Predicted by many to win the AL West and compete for a World Series, the Angels went 78-84 and finished 18 games back of Oakland in their division.
This year, however, has been a much different story – and Street, who was acquired by the Angels in a six-player deal in July, has been a big part of it.
“I think last year was kind of a surprise for a lot of people in the league,” the Angels closer said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But seasons sometimes unfold that way, in an underwhelming way. This year, it’s just kind of all playing out like it should. I mean, you look at the talents of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton. You look at our two guys up the middle, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar. Those are two guys who have been in this organization for a long period of time and are just steady, sturdy, solid everyday big-leaguers that – when you put them in the middle of the lineup – they make the entire team better. And then you’ve got the superstars in front of them.
“I’m a fan of (watching every team),” Street continued. “I’m always watching everything and enjoying it. But this year in particular – and now getting over here – it’s no surprise (how well we’re doing). There’s a lot of guys (in this clubhouse) that love the game. They show up every day, passionate. And even after the four-game sweep of the A’s – which was obviously a big deal for us – the sentiment in the clubhouse (was), ‘We got to keep doing it. We got to keep going.’ Our goal wasn’t just to win that series; our goal was to do more than that – and we feel like we have a chance to do it.”
Thanks to that four-game Labor Day-weekend sweep, the Angels went from clinging to a one-game lead to enjoying a comfortable five-game cushion. Yes, Oakland is simply not the same team without Yoenis Cespedes, who was traded for Jon Lester at the deadline. The A’s are 14-21 since dealing their cleanup hitter.
Have they simply lost their confidence?
“Confidence is huge,” Street said. “I don’t want to speak for them and say that they did lose their confidence and then jinx them back into a winning streak. But I think if you take someone like Cespedes out of the lineup, all of a sudden (you’re a little less versatile and dynamic). The A’s are a clutch team. You see their timely hitting is there, but with someone like Cespedes in the (middle of the) lineup, as a pitcher, it’s going to change the way you pitch to the two guys in front of him. And then, because of his talent, he’s always a threat for a long ball.”
“I’m not going to say they didn’t have confidence (entering that four-game series),” Street continued. “I think we really did a great job of executing. We went into that series with a one-game lead, and really, you’re just trying to come out of there even or maybe one game better – just to play the numbers game moving forward. You never expect to sweep. We’re not going to count the A’s out ever. They’ve proven it week after week, night after night, that they can find the clutch hit.”
“But I definitely think that losing Cespedes changes that lineup. Jon Lester is an unbelievable starting pitcher, but ti’s impossible to replace somebody like Cespedes.”