Can Pujols keep his hot bat going on this road trip? (Image: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE)

Series Preview: Angels @ Padres


The Los Angeles Angels (17-22) begin a 10-game road trip with their first interleague game of the season as they head down the road to face the San Diego Padres (14-25) in a matchup of California clubs looking to turn around a disappointing start to 2012.

Previous Series

Angels vs White Sox (W 7-2, L 1-6)

The Angels started their short series by sending Jerome Williams to the hill against Chicago. He was dominant, going eight strong innings, surrendering just two runs on 10 hits, striking out five and walking none. He was helped out by an offensive surge, including a three-run home run from Albert Pujols, his second of the season, to put the Angels up for good in the third. Vernon Wells added a two run blast in the sixth as the Halo bats came alive for the first game with new hitting coach Jim Eppard, cruising to an easy victory.

For the second game, C.J. Wilson went to the hill and had his most disappointing start of the season. He lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up four runs (one earned) and looked sloppy, walking six and hitting one while striking out just three. He was hurt by poor defense behind him, as Mike Trout dropped a pop up in right field after losing the ball in the sun and Howie Kendrick let a short fly to right land in the grass after also losing it. Both miscues resulted in the big fourth inning for Chicago which eventually chased Wilson. The Angels only run came off a sixth inning solo shot from Pujols, his second home run in as many games after going 110 at-bats before hitting his first to start the season.

Padres vs Dodgers (W 4-2, L 1-8)

San Diego hosted the other Los Angeles club for a two game set of NL West rivals. In the opener, Clayton Richard took the hill for the Padres and settled into a nice groove after giving up two runs in the top of the first. He would end up going 7.0 innings, giving up just the two runs on four hits, striking out six. He was backed by the offense of Chase Headley, who knocked in three runs and had a solo shot to push the Padres past the first place Dodgers.

Edinson Volquez got the start for the Padres in Game 2, and just like in Game 1, gave up two runs to the Dodgers in the top of the first. Unlike Richard, though, Volquez didn’t get saved by his offense. He lasted just 5.0 innings, giving up five runs (three earned) on seven hits, striking out six and walking three. The Dodgers would add another pair of runs off reliever Alex Hinshaw and build up an 8-0 lead. The Padres would push across a single run in the bottom of the ninth off a Chris Denorfia single, but it was way too little and way too late to make much difference.

Pitching Matchups

May 18: Jered Weaver (5-1, 2.83 ERA) vs Jeff Suppan (2-1, 1.69 ERA)

Weaver had been dominant up to his last start in Texas, which was by fra his worst of a very impressive 2012 so far. Against the Rangers, he lasted just 3.1 innings, his shortest outing since 2009, giving up eight runs on ten hits, including a grand slam to Nelson Cruz. He struck out just two and walked one. It tied Weaver’s career record for runs given up in a single outing and jumped his ERA up from 1.60 to 2.83. The Rangers lineup is much more dangerous than what he’ll face in San Diego, and Petco is not nearly as hitter-friendly as Arlington, so expect Weaver’s rough outing to be an aberration and not the beginning of a bad trend.

Suppan didn’t make his first start this season until May 2. Prior to that, he had given up nine runs in just 6.2 innings of Triple-A this season, but has somehow found a way to get major league hitters out and win games with the big club. He’s coming off his first loss of the season, a strong outing against the Phillies where he went 6.0 innings, giving up three runs (two earned) on six hits, striking out one and walking zero. The key for Suppan this season has been control, as he’s walked just four batters this season, but he’s been allowing a ton of contact. He’s only recorded four strikeouts on the year, and just three swinging strikes. He’s allowing contact, and eventually that contact is going to get too hard to handle sooner rather than later.

May 19: Dan Haren (1-4, 4.41 ERA) vs Tim Stauffer (0-0, 5.40 ERA)

Haren has been suffereing from lower back stiffness during his last two starts and has had some serious struggles because of it. Against the Twins, he lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up five runs on eight hits, walking two and failing to record a strikeout for just the third time in his career. Then against Oakland, he looked a little better, lasting 6.0 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, walking four and striking out five. Haren’s developed some control issues as his back has stiffened, as well. Through his first four starts, Haren issued just three free passes. In his last four, he’s given up 10. Even worse for Haren, over his last three starts, he’s become the new Ervin Santana, getting zero runs of support as the Angels have been shut out in each start. Haren will hope to get back to his early season form where he was at least throwing the ball well and losing games because of bad luck rather than his late form where he has lost games because he’s pitched poorly.

Stauffer has made just one start in 2012, a no-decision against Washington, after starting the season with triceps soreness. He looked to be completely over that issue, however, as he looked pretty good through 5.0 innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits, walking three and striking out five. He was pulled after just 91 pitches as the team does not want to overwork his arm right out the gate. Expect better stuff as he continues to work into form, getting some help from his forgiving home confines in San Diego.

May 20: Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.36 ERA) vs Anthony Bass (2-4, 2.87 ERA)

After starting the season 0-6 and seeing the Angels get shut out in five consecutive starts, Ervin Santana is enjoying a nice little two game winning streak. In his last start against Oakland, he pitched 7.2 innings of shutout ball, scattering four hits, striking out nine and walking three. After a very shaky start, he seems to be finding the lost form that has made him one of the more consistent presences on this Angels rotation over the last several years. In his last three starts, he has struck out nine or more batter twice, so it’s safe to assume that he’s figured out his early struggles. Most importantly, he’s getting some offense to support him as the Angels have scored 10 runs in his last two starts after scoring three in his first six. Expect Ervin to keep his mini-roll going and put forth another great outing.

Anthony Bass has been a pleasant surprise for the Padres this season who have seen their starting rotation get hit numerous injuries. He’s transitioned from the bullpen and has been extremely efficient. In his seven starts this year, he’s given up three runs or fewer six times. In his last outing against the Nationals, Bass put forth his strongest showing of the season, going eight innings, giving up just one run on five hits, striking out seven and walking one. He owns a very solid 45:15 K:BB ratio since becoming a starter and will continue to hone some very good stuff as he grows into his role in the rotation.

Storylines to Watch

Mickey Hatcher is gone and Pujols has gone deep in two straight games. Not to say there’s any correlation, but that breath of fresh air Jerry Dipoto was talking about getting into the locker room seems to be working so far. Can the offense take the next step and consistently score runs, though, will be the next question. They need to put the rough start with that horrid number of scoreless games behind them and start putting some crooked numbers on the scoreboard. If this offense can get going, for real and for good, then the Halos could start to make some serious noise in the division.

The Padres have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball and have seen their lineup get shelled by injuries. Outside of Chase Headely, who leads the team in nearly every offensive statistical category, San Diego has been unable to generate offense, which is a large reason why they’re buried in the NL West cellar. They need to get some other contributors to step up and are willing to create some roster turnover to do so as they released Orlando Hudson and called up former Angel Alexi Amarista to fill in at second base. They also have their top prospect Jedd Gyorko, who is believed to be the long-term answer for the Padres at second, waiting in the wings at Triple-A Tucson after promoting him last Thursday. Will any of these moves help San Diego put some runs on the board, though?

Season Implications

The Angels couldn’t help splitting both short series in their four-game home stand, and are still seven games back of Texas. This Padres series is the first in a road trip that will take L.A. from San Diego to Oakland to Seattle, which are three beatable clubs at this point, making this a vitally important road trip. If the offense really is back, this will be the time for them break out and help give this club some momentum towards moving back into the AL West conversation. Winning series they should win becomes more important by the day, and these next three are definitely ones they should win.

The Padres sit 11.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West and haven’t shown many signs of being able to fight their way back. If they want to though, they’ll need to start winning series (they’ve only won two so far this season). This is their last shot during a five-game home stand before embarking on a cross country tour with stops in St. Louis, New York, and Chicago and could use any momentum they can muster heading into it.

The Hangout View

The offense seems to be headed in the right direction and the Angels starters have been pitching well (outside of Haren). Add in that the Padres are one of the few offenses in baseball that has underperformed the Angels this season, and the Halos traditionally do extremely well in interleague play, and you have the recipe for a great start to a very important road trip. The hitter-friendly confines of Petco favor the Angels pitchers, and the Halos will come away with two of three in San Diego.

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Tags: Angels Interleague Play Padres Series Preview