Beginning tonight, the top two teams in baseball will face off for a critical four game series that may shake up the AL West race. The Oakland Athletics are on the road to take on their division rivals, and currently the team with the best record in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (79-53). The A’s have struggled in August, highlighted by a disastrous road trip in the middle of the month. The Angels, on the other hand, have been on a tear, and their hot streak allowed them to finally surpass the A’s and take the top spot in the division and all of baseball. The stakes have never been higher, as the A’s trail the Angels by a single game after leading the division and all of baseball for the majority of the season. Over the duration of the season, the A’s hold an 8-4 record vs the Angels, outscoring them 63-47 thus far.
Oakland Athletics Record: (78-54, 35-31 on the road, 2nd AL West)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Record: (79-53, 43-24 at home, 1st AL West)
Season Series: Oakland leads 8-4
Thursday, August 28, 7:05 pm PST: Sonny Gray vs C.J. Wilson
Friday, August 29, 7:05 pm PST: Jon Lester vs Jered Weaver
Saturday, August 30, 6:05 pm PST: Jeff Samardzija vs
TBA Update: Cory Rasmus
Sunday, August 31, 12:35 pm PST: Scott Kazmir vs Matt Shoemaker
As A’s fans are well aware, this has not been their best month. The “green and gold” are a mediocre 12-13 in August. Unfortunately, the A’s decline has coincided with the Angels only getting hotter. The Angels are 15-10 in August but were 19-8 in July. The A’s were 15-10 in July. If you thought the A’s/Angels series in Oakland was important, this series has greater significance given the number of games (4 in this series) and the closeness to the end of the season. Only 30 games remain. This will be the second to last time the A’s take on the Angels, and the last series in Anaheim. The A’s face them again on September 22-24 for the last A’s home series of the regular season. But that’s enough about the future, let’s focus on the present.
The A’s will send Gray to the mound, who is seeking his second win in August. Uncharacteristically, Gray has amassed a 4.50 ERA in August and went 1-4 this month. Gray has had a rough month but showed promise in his last outing, which happened to be against the Angels. Gray dazzled on August 22, going 8.1 innings. He surrendered 6 hits and 3 earned runs (2 of which came from home runs). Trout and Hamilton had solo home runs, while Freese had an RBI. Lucky for Sonny, the A’s bats weren’t cold, as they provided 5 runs of support to surpass the 3 from the Angels.
Wilson pitched against the A’s on August 23. Wilson pitched 6.1 innings, giving up 5 hits, but only 1 earned run. Had Crisp not scored in the 8th on a wild pitch, the game would have likely required extra innings. The A’s won 2-1. But don’t make the mistake of letting that win make you overly confident about the A’s in this game. Wilson has a combined 1.96 ERA in his last three starts. His weakness, as always, will be trying to control his frequent walks.
This season, Gray has a 3.60 ERA vs the Angels, while Wilson has an impressive 1.42 ERA against the A’s. Wilson has only pitched 6.1 innings against Oakland, so those numbers will hopefully inflate very quickly on Friday if the A’s bats get hot. Let’s hope that Friday night we see the pitching ace we know Gray is, and that he remains undefeated against the Angels this season.
Lester had a bad game against the Braves on August 17, but dominated during his most recent outing. Lester went 7.0 innings vs the Angels, allowing only 1 earned run and amassing 7 strikeouts. Lester is 3-1 since coming to the A’s, with a 2.53 ERA. Despite his less than perfect outing in Atlanta, he isthe A’s true ace, and is expected to shine on Saturday, especially given the playoff-like environment of the game (something Lester is certainly used to).
Weaver has a 6.00 ERA vs Oakland, but a 2.89 ERA in Anaheim. Despite the comical ERA against the A’s, he did manage to produce a win in their last match up on August 24th. I am confident Lester will get the job done when takes the mound on Friday.
Saturday, we will witness Samardzija take on Anaheim for the first time this season.
Skaggs and Richards are out with injuries, leaving a gaping hole in the Angels’ rotation. Personally, I wish they’d send Wade LeBlanc to the mound again. He threw 3.1 innings and gave up 6 earned runs on August 25th the Marlins. He pitched two other times this season, both times against the A’s. First, he pitched against the A’s on May 30th, lasting 6.1 innings and giving up 4 earned runs. Second, on June 4th, where his single inning of work resulted in 2 earned runs for Oakland. LeBlanc has a disatrous 10.13 ERA this year. Maybe the Tigers want him for their bullpen to keep Jim Johnson company?
Update: Cory Rasmus will leave the bullpen take the mound for Anaheim. In total, he pitched 21.2 innings last season for the Angels and Braves, and also bounced between Triple-A affiliates. In 2014, he’s pitched 37.0 innings, with a 2.68 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. His ERA vs Oakland is 4.91 from 3.2 innings. At his maximum, he has only pitched 2.2 innings this season at the Major League level. The Angels do not expect Rasmus to pitch for long, and will rely very quickly on their well rested bullpen.
Kazmir, who shined for much of the season, also had a rough August, earning 3 of his 6 losses this month. His last outing was against the Angels last Sunday, a nationally televised game, and may be considered his worst start this season. He pitched 3 innings, giving up 7 earned runs and only generating a single strike out. His 21.00 ERA vs the Angels is only based on that one bad start, but it is a little concerning. Regardless, I expect that Kazmir should return to his normal dominance on Sunday.
Shoemaker has pitched 0.1 of an inning vs Oakland. Despite not being able to compare much, I think Shoemaker and the Angels could potentially have the advantage this game. Shoemaker has stepped up for the Angels in a time when they desperately needed him to. He is 5-1 in August, giving up a total of 6 earned runs in 6 games, including pitching a near no-hitter against Boston last week.
The A’s will face 2 right handed starters, 1 lefty, and 1 TBA pitcher. Here’s how the 2014 A’s have stacked up thus far against RHP/LHP:
|OAK hitters vs RHP||.253||.330||.401||.731|
|OAK hitters vs LHP||.240||.313||.392||.705|
The Angels take on 2 RHPs and 2 LHPs. Take a quick look how they’ve done this year:
|LAA hitters vs RHP||.255||.319||.397||.717|
|LAA hitters vs LHP||.277||.340||.437||.777|
The Angels have done slightly better against lefties. But Lester and Kazmir should be able to fend them off.
Garrett Richards Update:
In the unlikely event you haven’t heard, Angels’ starting pitcher Garrett Richards sustained a serious injury during the Wednesday Angels/Red Sox game in Boston. Richards will require surgery and will not return this season. The Angels placed him on the 60-day DL, and anticipate he will miss 6 to 9 months while he recovers from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
a few minutes ago, Angels projected to have the No. 16 rotation the rest of the way. now, without Richards, they project for No. 30
– Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) August 21, 2014
Richards boasted a 2.61 ERA, 1.038 WHIP and was 13-4 over 26 games and 168.2 innings. Richards led the Angels in ERA (2.61) and strike outs (164). The impact of his injury on the AL West race could have major implications. The Angels only lead by 1 game, and have now recently lost two starters, Richards and Skaggs (Tommy John surgery) and lack adequate minor league talent to call up. This is a massive blow to the Angels but their offense is clearly capable of compensating for less than prime pitching.
The Angels haven’t even seen the postseason since 2009, when they last won the division. To put that into some perspective, Trout made his debut in 2011 and still hasn’t played October baseball. Personally, I’d like to see that continue, but it looks like that streak could end.
How do you bet against the back-to-back AL West Champions that until recently led the division since April? (Hint: You don’t). Despite a rough month, the A’s have won 4 out of their last 6 games, while the Angels have won only 3 of their last 6, two of which were at home against Miami. It’s time for Oakland to take back the division and prove who is the best in the west.
Official predictions: The A’s will split the series.
Unofficial predictions: Trout will continue to frequently look confused. Street will also be confused and accidentally go to the wrong dugout/bullpen. The fireworks will, once again, go off prematurely. The rally possum will travel to Anaheim and get in a heated battle royal with the rally monkey during the final game in the series.
Comment below your official and unofficial predictions for the series and vote in the poll.