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100 wins into his career, Angels manager Phil Nevin finding his ‘defining moment’


The sound of loud cheering flowed out into the hallway as the door to the Comerica Park visitor’s clubhouse in Detroit opened for just a moment on Thursday night.

Waiting in the hallway were the dozen or so reporters wondering what in particular the Angels were celebrating. Was it the doubleheader sweep? Shohei Ohtani’s latest Herculean efforts? A strong win to end a getaway day to the next road stop? All of the above?

Several minutes later, Phil Nevin walked through the doors and into that hallway, some wet spots scattered on his face and shirt. His nose was slightly red. He wiped his welling eyes. There was another reason to celebrate.

After three wins over the Tigers, the Angels manager — who was named interim manager, his first MLB managerial role, in June 2022 after Joe Maddon was fired, then signed on a one-year deal to manage this year’s team — got his 100th career win. It was the players who came up with the idea to do the surprise celebration for Nevin, who at first was hesitant, then embraced it.

“I guess the shower is the tradition,” Nevin said and smiled. “I got thrown in the laundry basket for a little bit. I don’t know what’s in my eyes.”

The sweep of the Tigers allowed the Angels (54-49) to enter Friday for the start of their series with the Blue Jays here at the Rogers Centre three games behind for the final American League Wild Card spot. The Blue Jays held that spot, with the Boston Red Sox 1½ games back and the New York Yankees 2½ games back.

It’s a position the Angels have clawed back into after dropping 13 of their last 17 games before the All-Star break to fall under .500 (45-46). They hit the worst of it in the final week before the break, getting swept in San Diego and the Dodgers and losing Mike Trout to hand surgery.

“Usually, any team, they always have a defining moment,” Nevin said in San Diego on July 5. “Teams do. And you talk about winning a World Series or getting to the playoffs, everyone talks about a defining moment.

“This is maybe ours, I don’t know,” he continued. “We go into a break with what really looks like seven of our nine starters not in a lineup. Hey, [maybe] we can look back to this point and say we weathered the storm, we got through it. We got hot at the right time and we’re playing in October.”

Considering the stretch the Angels were on, and considering they had not made the playoffs since 2014, it was a hopeful thing for Nevin to say. And although there are still two months left in the season, and after suffering two tough losses to the Astros after the break, the Angels have gone 8-1 since July 17 heading into Friday’s game against the Blue Jays. And from hearing the players tell it, Nevin was a key factor in the Angels’ recent turnaround.

“I don’t think the room would be be as glued to together or as on the same page if it weren’t for [Nevin],” Angels catcher Logan O’Hoppe said Friday.

Added reliever Matt Moore: “[Nevin’s] got his own flavor in today’s game. … He’s always got our backs and that’s something that’s up front and center. You can feel it. There’s not been a small situation where it doesn’t feel like he’s right there with you. We’re lucky to have him.”

The fight and improved play the team demonstrated was enough for team ownership and the front office to become buyers before Tuesday’s trade deadline and to confirm that Ohtani would stay with the Angels for the rest of the season.

They had already traded for Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar in an effort to mitigate the absences caused by injuries to Zach Neto and Gio Urshela (pelvis fracture, out for season). And this week, the Angels traded two prospects to the White Sox for starting pitcher Lucas Giolito and reliever Reynaldo López. Giolito was the Angels starter on Friday.

Nevin’s leadership in helping the Angels navigate a tough stretch was critical in helping the club earn that trust and put them in a position to play meaningful baseball this late in the season for the first time since Ohtani joined the team before the 2018 season.

“I think he’s something we needed,” said Angels infielder Andrew Velazquez, who was with the Yankees when Nevin was the third base coach. “I think we were aloof last year. I love Joe [Maddon], so it’s nothing to do with Joe. But even as an organization, it’s just kind of more structured now about work and I think he took that from the Yankees and brought that over here in his own way. But we’re benefiting from it now and will in this longer stretch.”

Added pitcher Reid Detmers: “You can’t ask for a better manager.”

“I had no idea [they were planning it],” Nevin said Friday of the celebration in Detroit. “There’s probably the argument that [getting 100 wins] should have happened sooner. One hundred wins, it’s, there was times in my life that maybe I didn’t think I’d get one to be honest with you. So that’s cool. But we’re focused on today. They had a nice moment for me in the clubhouse after the game, which was neat for me to be around the players like that. I’m more looking towards … building a lot more of those.”

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