Amid all the turmoil that has unfolded with the Angels in the last month, Luis Rengifo quietly has emerged as one of the best hitters on the team.
In Wednesday’s 10-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, the Angels utility player not only extended his hit streak to 14 games, but he also hit a two-run home run into the right-center-field seats that accounted for most of the offense in the team’s sixth straight loss.
Patrick Sandoval got the loss, going five innings, giving up seven runs (four earned) on seven hits, walking four and striking out three as the Orioles completed a sweep.
Rengifo’s home run came in the third inning off Orioles starter Kyle Gibson’s 86-mph changeup, energizing the Angel Stadium crowd. Rengifo went two for four in his 27th multihit game of the season.
“I feel good in the box,” Rengifo said after the game. “I did my adjustments, have some fun there and see the results.”
Even though Rengifo’s season has had its share of bad moments, his improvements at the plate represent tangible, continued growth by the 26-year-old, who was hitting .202 at the end of June. His average is up to .264 and his on-base-plus-slugging rate is a career-best .783.
“To his credit,” manager Phil Nevin recently said, “he started the season slow, wasn’t playing every day, but was certainly playing enough, he just had some ups and downs, but stuck with it, kept working.”
On Tuesday, Rengifo earned his first American League player of the week honor, which earned him an ovation from the crowd. He came into Wednesday with a 1.244 OPS over the last 13 games.
His progress, Nevin said, has much to do with the work he has continued to do with hitting coach Marcus Thames in the batting cages, which has made him more selective at the plate.
“I stay with my plan every time I get to the box,” Rengifo said. “I don’t change it no matter what.”
Thames’ coaching philosophy, he said in an interview with The Times in June, revolves around getting to know players, then reminding them of who they are.
“These guys are really talented,” Thames said. “Just getting them to believe in their work, getting them to believe in the routine in the cage. … And then once the game comes, they can just go play.
“And that’s kind of what I wanted to try to get that chemistry going with the guys, letting them trust themselves. Myself and [assistant hitting coach Phil Plantier], just making sure we’re an extra set of eyes for them. Trying to keep it simple because hitting is so hard.”
As for Rengifo, his improved bat and his various usefulness for being able to be placed about anywhere around the field as the Angels work through their final 22 games of the season without key starters — the result of injuries and waivers — will only bode better for himself; something for fans to be interested in in 2024.
“I’m not gonna say [his bat] is what he’s gonna be like his entire career, but he’s certainly in a good place now,” Nevin said. “I just think his value is being able to play all over and having that, it makes it easier to go out and get somebody somewhere else. Doesn’t necessarily have to be one certain position because you know Luis can, I don’t want to say “fill in” because, for me, he’s an everyday player. He’s proven that.”