Over the season’s first four games, the A’s kept each game close and competitive, but ultimately lost three of four. After spending the first eight games of the year at Rickey Henderson Field, the A’s first road trip begins in Anaheim, in hopes that the A’s can rebound from the season opening series.
Current Record: 5-2, second place in AL West behind 6-1 Astros
2B - Ian Kinsler
CF - Mike Trout
LF - Justin Upton
3B - Zack Cozart
RF - Kole Calhoun
1B - Albert Pujols
SS - Andrelton Simmons
DH - Shohei Ohtani
C - Martin Maldonado
Probable Starting Pitchers:
So, for all the doom and gloom surrounding Shohei Ohtani during spring training, though it wasn’t entirely unfounded given how the rookie looked, it appears that the first truly great two-way player in baseball in nearly a century has figured it out at the plate. Over the three games the Angels played against the Indians between the season-opening series and this one, Ohtani blasted two home runs, including one off of Corey Kluber and brought his OPS up to 1.286. Besides Ohtani, the Angels’ infield has been carrying the majority of the offense for the Angels.
In the Angels’ outfield, Mike Trout has an OPS just over .850, but his average is a mere .233 well below his career norms, and the other outfield regulars, Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton, have yet to do much of anything at the plate. While the offense has been just fine to start the year, these three hitters are all going to need to step it up, otherwise the Angels may not have enough pitching to make it through the year.
Speaking of Ohtani, his pitching certainly lived up to the hype in his first start of his MLB career. Against the A’s, Ohtani pitched superbly, with a 100 mile an hour fastball and devastating splitter that netted him a strikeout per inning. His lone mistake in his start was surrendering a three-run home run to Matt Chapman, which happens from time to time. Apart from Ohtani, the Angels’ bullpen has nearly been perfect this season, and looks to be a surprising strength on the team.
Apart from Tyler Skaggs, who has looked dominant in his first two starts on the year, the rest of the regular starting pitching staff on the Angels hasn’t looked all too strong, with the lowest ERA among the other starts being Matt Shoemaker’s 4.76. While ERA doesn’t tell the whole story, at the very least it is indicative of a starting staff that is putting too many runs on the board. Without the bullpen’s elite performance, the Angels’ record could be much worse.
Ian Kinsler has still only made one start for the Angels on the year thanks to a strained groin, and Andrew Heaney, in typical Andrew Heaney fashion, has yet to make a start for the Angels thanks to inflammation in his pitching elbow. In addition to these already-existing injuries, Matt Shoemaker just went down for the next 10 days with a right forearm strain. Parker Bridwell is starting in Shoemaker’s place this series.
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The A’s played much more fundamentally sound baseball against the Rangers than they did versus the Angels, and should that trend continue into this next series, the A’s are poised to make a surprise series win. Against the back-half of the Angels rotation, plus a wild card in Ohtani, the A’s stand to put up good offensive numbers this series, and with a surer defense behind the pitching staff, the A’s won’t give away the deciding runs in what are sure to be close ballgames. The season is still young, and growing pains are to be expected on a team like this, but with a touch more polish, this team could be above .500 by the end of the weekend.
The Angels bounced back from a loss in their home opener to dominantly win the final two games of their three game set versus the Indians. It was in these final two games that Ohtani launched his first two career home runs, and battered around a very strong Indians’ pitching staff. In this series, the Angels, and the rest of the baseball world, will be keenly watching to see if Ohtani can continue his early-season dominance on both sides of the ball.
Game 9: Friday, April 6th, 7:05 PM - NBCSCA, FSW, MLB.tv
Daniel Gossett vs Parker Bridwell
Gossett had little control of any of his offerings in his first start, but his velocity was impressive and he did well to induce weak contact from the Angels’ offense, but ultimately he was let down by his defense and took a loss. He will be opposed by Parker Bridwell, who gave up more than two runs per inning when facing the A’s last year.
Game 10: Saturday, April 7th, 6:05 PM - NBCSCA, KCOP, MLB.tv
Andrew Triggs vs JC Ramirez
Triggs was dominant in his return to the rotation after spending most of last season sidelined with injuries. Triggs wasn’t the most efficient as he has been in the past on the mound, only able to go five innings, but his high pitch count was due to striking out seven hitters and not backing down against tough Rangers’ hitters. JC Ramirez couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning in his first start of the year, and looks to re-discover his dominance on the mound in his next start.
Game 11: Sunday, April 8th, 1:05 PM - NBCSCA, FSW, MLB.tv
Kendall Graveman vs Shohei Ohtani
Graveman’s pitches have had impressive life and velocity in his first two starts on the year, but his location has been awful, leading the A’s de-facto ace and staff leader to have a dreadful beginning to the 2018 season. It certainly isn’t too late for Graveman to bounce back and pitch to his potential, but a 95-MPH heavy sinker won’t get anyone far when it sinks right down the heart of the plate. Opposite Graveman will be Ohtani, making his expected Sunday start, his first in front of his home-faithful. The ballpark should be absolutely buzzing on this Sunday afternoon, and the young A’s will have to ensure the crowd doesn’t faze them.