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Series #52: Athletics at Angels - The End?

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Angels’ Current Record:

78-81. The Angels are coming off of a sweep of the Rangers, and would have to sweep the A’s in order to finish the season with a .500 record.

Projected Lineup:

Kole Calhoun - RF

Mike Trout - CF

Justin Upton - LF

Shohei Ohtani - DH

Andrelton SImmons - SS

Jefry Marte - 1B

Jose Briceno - C

Taylor Ward - 3B

Kaleb Cowart - 2B

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Jaime Barria - RHP

TBD x 2

Hottest Hitter(s):

Over the last month, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani have wreaked havoc on opponents’ pitching. Each slugger has hit seven home runs over the last month, are OPSing over 1.000, and are even stealing bases and creating actions and distractions on the basepaths. The Angels did well to make Trout and Ohtani their flagship players, but the entire rest of the organization has to pick up the slack to support two of the best athletes in the sport.

Coldest Hitter(s):

The Angels have five players who have received at least thirty at bats in September who are batting below .200 over that span. The worst offenders on the Angels come out of the catcher position, where both Jose Briceno and Francisco Arcia have been well below the Mendoza line for the month. Fortunately for the Angels, their defense has been strong to make their offense easier to stomach.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

The Angels’ surprisingly strong starting rotation never had much of a chance to pitch all together and healthy, and the lack of depth in the high minors ultimately spelled doom for Anaheim. With expanded rosters, the Angels are now leaning on four starters and a large bullpen to get them through the rest of the season. Of their remaining starters, Jose Barria has done better than anyone at limited runs during the last month, and Andrew Heaney has been striking out roughly seven batters a start. In the bullpen, Taylor Cole and Hector Robles have been nearly lights out.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

There is a good amount of chaff in the bullpen for the Angels right now, so if a starter ever exits a game early, the advantage should fall squarely on the A’s shoulders. Of all the starting pitchers remaining, Matt Shoemaker has been the least sharp since returning from an injury that kept him sidelined most of the year, his ERA encroaching on 5.00.

* * *

Baseball is unpredictable and no one should ever try.

At the start of the year, the Angels added Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart, and Ian Kinsler to what was the MLB’s leading defensive team and a solid rotation that was finally going to be healthy after years in the weeds. The Angels won three of four in Oakland to start the year, and on the outside it looked as though the Angels had finally given Mike Trout the support he needed to the Angels to win a playoff game with him on the field. Their budget was large, albeit hampered by some albatross contracts, and Josh Hamilton was finally off their ledger. The Angels were going to leapfrog the Mariners and be the primary challengers to the Astros in the west. The season didn’t quite turn out that way.

The A’s season also didn’t turn out the way people predicted, but in a different way.

This season has been about low expectations and the return to the simple enjoyment of watching good baseball. It has been about trusting guys to lean into their own strengths and become a unit that is far greater than the sum of its parts. It’s been about developing and creating superstars, not buying them. Baseball is fun and stressful and exhilarating and frustrating all at once, but the last three seasons gave Oakland a hollowed out version. Unpredictably, this team was good, but most importantly, this team has made baseball (more) fun to watch again.

Game #160: Friday, September 28th, 7:07 - NBCSCA, FSW, MLB.tv

Mike Fiers vs Jaime Barria

Game #161: Saturday, September 29th, 6:07 - NBCSCA, FSW, MLB.tv

TBD vs TBD

Game #162: Sunday, September 30th, 12:07 - NBCSCA, FSW, MLB.tv

TBD vs TBD

With the A’s likely going to New York to play the Wild Card game as the AL’s 5th seed, this final series is primarily going to be about keeping the regulars sharp for the postseason, but also well rested. The A’s will also be having their final auditions for roles in the postseason on the pitching staff, ranging from who starts the Wild Card game and what the rotation looks after that, to who will procure the final two or so spots in the front of the bullpen.