Valbuena sparks flagging offense with 2 HRs

Angels first baseman showing potential after difficult first half

Valbuena sparks flagging offense with 2 HRs

ANAHEIM -- Luis Valbuena provided the spark for the Angels' offense, not once, but twice in a 6-3 loss to the Rays on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

The Halos first baseman teed up a solo home run in the seventh inning off Rays starter Alex Cobb, then launched a two-run shot off reliever Jumbo Diaz in the bottom of the ninth to pull Los Angeles within three. The performance marked the 31-year-old's fifth career multi-homer game, and served as a testament to his consistent approach at the plate, despite a rough first half.

"I do the same thing every day," Valbuena said. "Right now, I'm very focused. A good pitch -- that's the big difference."

The Angels signed the 10-year veteran to a free-agent deal last offseason, after he slashed a career-high .260/.357/.459 in 90 games with the Astros in 2016. The early returns on the investment weren't flattering -- through 57 games with the Angels, Valbuena was slashing a career-low .181/.261/.311, entering Saturday.

Though following Saturday's performance, manager Mike Scioscia said he hopes Valbuena is nearing the level of play the club expected from him this season.

"He finished the first half hitting the ball hard," Scioscia said. "Tough first couple at-bats. But yeah, his last two at-bats, he was where we expect him to be, so that's a good sign."

"What's in the past is in the past," Valbuena said.

Scioscia has mentioned previously that the team will need production from first base to improve in order for his club to compete for a playoff spot in the second half of the season. Even in the loss, Valbuena flashed the potential the position holds, and he said afterward that he felt much better following the game.

"I'm swinging at good pitches right now," he said. "I'm aggressive with the pitches in the zone. … I'm a new guy, and every time I go up there, I try to do my best for the team."

Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.