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Series #28: Athletics at Angels - Improvements and Implications

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The AL West and Wild Card standings could look a whole lot different after this weekend’s four game set against the Angels. The Rays currently procure the first Wild Card spot, just one game up in the standings over the Rangers and the Indians, locked in a tied for the second spot. Just a game behind Texas and Cleveland are the Red Sox, and just a half game behind Boston is our very own A’s. All the while, the Angels have managed to unexpectedly hang around, and are just a mere two games back of Oakland. By the time the A’s weekly Sunday tragedy comes around, the team could be leading the entire pack, or they could be in fourth place, just a game over .500. All the while, Houston continues collapse further and further down the standings, and are in striking distance of all non-Seattle AL West competition.

So it is imperative that the A’s play their best ball this weekend, which will be tough against an Angels’ team that has gone 11-7 since the last time the two squads squared off in Anaheim, and has won three games in a row entering tonight’s play. As a team, the Angels have just scored three more total runs than the A’s all season long, so the offenses have very similar firepower, but it is the pitching staff where the Angels are at a clear disadvantage, and more distinctly the starting pitching. However, there are some signs that the previously injury-riddled Angels’ staff is on the up and up.

Careers marred by injuries have turned Tyler Skaggs and Andrew Heaney into afterthoughts, but have proven over the years that they can be tough nuts to crack when not hampered by lingering aches and pains, and now each pitcher has proven they are healthy during the last couple of months. Over his last two starts, Skaggs has just allowed one run total, and Heaney looks to be a tough piece of competition once he gets his walks under control, and has been progressively improving after a rough start to the year. Griffin Canning has been a surprising force in the rotation since his callup earlier this year, and has perhaps been their best starting pitcher overall, possessing a 0.99 WHIP over his last five starts, with twenty eight strikeouts and just four walks during that timespan.

The real strengths of the Angels’ pitching staff comes from the bullpen, where Cam Bedrosian and Noe Ramirez have been practically unhittable over the last month. Bedrosian has eighteen strikeouts in his last fourteen innings pitched, pitching as both an opener and as a late inning guy. Ramirez hasn’t given up a single run in his last sixteen innings pitched, allowing just eight hits and one walk during that timespan, to go along with twenty one strikeouts.

On offense, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that it is the Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani show, the former OPSing 1.201 with ten home runs and twenty six RsBI over his last twenty seven games. Ohtani has an OPS of 1.030 during the same time span. Justin Bour was hitting so terribly for his new ballclub that he was demoted to AAA for a spell, but has been on a complete tear since being called back up, hitting four home runs in seven games, driving in nine key runs and propelling the Angels to victory late in games. After battling injuries, the Angels’ lineup is now significantly deeper with the return of Justin Upton, who is hitting like he never left and has an OPS of .972 with three home runs in his nine games back.

All of a sudden, the heart of the Angels’ lineup is one of the better in the game.

The A’s won two of three in Anaheim the last time the team travelled out there, but even though it is only three weeks later, this Angels’ team looks a whole lot better. The A’s pitching will need to be sharp and the A’s offense will need to be patient and take early leads to come out of this weekend series victorious. If all goes well, Oakland could find themselves not only right back in the playoff picture, but in the hunt for the division title as well.

Potential Lineup

Tommy La Stella - 2B

Mike Trout - CF

Shohei Ohtani - DH

Justin Upton - LF

Brian Goodwin - RF

David Fletcher - 3B

Justin Bour - 1B

Luis Rengifo - SS

Dustin Garneau - C

Pitching Matchups

Tanner Anderson vs Griffin Canning

Mike Fiers vs Opener + Angels’ Bullpen

Brett Anderson vs Tyler Skaggs

Chris Bassitt vs Andrew Heaney

Game Information

Game #83: Thursday, June 27th at 7:07

Game #84: Friday, June 28th at 7:07

Game #85: Saturday, June 29th at 7:07

Game #86: Sunday, June 30th at 1:07

All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.