The Angels lack of consistent offense is a cause for concern (Image: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE)

Series Preview: Angels @ Athletics

The Los Angeles Angels (18-24) continue their road trip against the Oakland Athletics (21-21) in a matchup of AL West foes. Oakland leads the season series 4-2.

Previous Series

Angels @ Padres (W 7-2, L 2-3, L 2-3 (13))

The Angels kicked off their interleague schedule for 2012 with a trip to San Diego for a three game series. The Angels sent Jered Weaver to the mound in Game 1, who bounced back from his worst start of the year for another strong showing in an impressive 2012, so far. He pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on three hits while striking out four and walking three. He would also help his own cause with a hit, a walk, and a run scored. Mike Trout would lead the Angels offense with three hits, including an RBI triple, as the Angels cruised to an easy win.

For Game 2, Dan Haren looked to turn around his recent struggles where he’s seen his command, and his offensive support, disappear. He looked much sharper on the hill than in previous outings, going 6.2 innings, giving up three runs on six hits with five strikeouts and one walk, but couldn’t get enough help from his offense. Erick Aybar did his best with four hits, including an RBI triple in the second, but it was the former Angel Alexi Amarista who did all the damage in this game. Amarista, who the Angels traded to San Diego as part of a deal for reliever Ernesto Frieri, scored the first two Padres runs and knocked in the go-ahead run in the seventh to push the Padres past the Angels.

For the rubber match in the series, the Angels gave Ervin Santana the start to see if he could continue his modest winning streak he’s started, winning in his last two starts. He gave another consecutive strong performance, pitching 6.0 innings, surrendering two runs on six hits, striking out six and walking two. However, he would leave with the contest tied in what turned into a mini-marathon game where both teams emptied their benches trying to manufacture a run. The Angels would use 21 of the 25 players on the active roster, including Dan Haren as a pinch hitter in the 13th (he would strike out swinging). In the end, an error by Howie Kendrick, who was playing in left field due to injuries, allowed the Padres to score the winning run and resulted in the Angels dropping another series.

Athletics @ Giants (L 6-8, L 0-4, W 6-2)

The A’s began their interleague schedule with a three-game set against their rivals from across the bay. Jarrod Parker started Game 1 and bombed, failing to record an out in the third inning, surrendering six runs on four hits and walking four batters before getting lifted. His struggles put the A’s in a deep 6-1 hole after three innings, but Oakland’s offense would mount a rally. Josh Donaldson led the way for Oakland with a home run and a pair of doubles to set career bests with three hits and five RBI. In the end, their rally fell just short as they could not catch the Giants.

In Game 2, the A’s sent Tyson Ross to the hill who got himself into a pitcher’s duel with San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong. Ross would pitch six scoreless innings before the Giants broke through in the seventh, scoring all four of their runs during the frame. The A’s managed just a single hit on the night, a soft bloop single by Seth Smith in the fifth inning, but could not find any answers for Vogelsong or the Giants bullpen. The loss marked the 11th straight defeat the A’s have suffered while visiting the Giants.

For Game 3, Bartolo Colon took the hill to try and salvage the series for Oakland. He was strong on the day, going 5.0 innings giving up just two runs on six hits and striking out seven. The Oakland offense came alive finally, scoring four runs in the fourth en route to scoring the final six runs of the game. Collin Cowgill drove in a pair of runs with a single to put Oakland ahead, and would later come around to score in a home-plate collision with Giants starter Tim Lincecum, who would be forced to leave the game afterwards. Josh Reddick added a two-run home run to seal it in the seventh and the A’s won for the first time in San Francisco since 2008.

Pitching Matchups

May 21: Jerome Williams (4-1, 3.86 ERA) vs Tommy Milone (5-3, 4.09 ERA)

Williams has quietly become one of the Angels better pitchers this season. He’s won four straight decisions, allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last six starts and has struck out five or more hitters four times this season. His last start was a gem of working out of trouble as he gave up ten hits over eight innings to the White Sox, but allowed just two runs while striking out five and walking none. He hasn’t shown a terribly great ability to maintain success in his career, so Halos’ fans watch his strong 2012 with some trepidation, but the pitcher friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum should provide a great opportunity for Williams’ hot start to continue.

Milone has been a very up and down pitcher all season. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in four of his starts, while allowing four runs or more in the other four, including seven against Boston and five against Tampa Bay. In his last start, Milone took the loss against Texas, giving up four runs on nine hits through 7.0 innings with four strike outs and one walk. He’s got a respectable 1.13 WHIP but his ERA is high at 4.09. He’s also had a relatively low strike out rate this season, fanning just 29 batters in 50.2 innings of work.

May 22: C.J. Wilson (4-4, 3.35 ERA) vs Graham Godfrey (0-3, 5.06 ERA)

Wilson has cooled off a bit after starting the year with six straight quality starts. He’s lost two straight decisions (including the shortened start in Texas) and has walked more batters (10) than he’s struck out (eight). In his last outing, he went just 3.2 innings against the White Sox, giving up four runs (one earned) on four hits, walking six and striking out just three. Wilson complained of a stomach virus that was affecting him during that start, though, which was likely the reason for his missing command. He’s still given up three earned runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts, though, so he’s pitching quality games. He’s been historically very good against the A’s, allowing just 15 hits over 133 at-bats (.155) and no home runs. He’ll look to get his command back under control and get himself back on track against the struggling Oakland bats.

After getting optioned down to Triple-A April 21, Graham Godfrey makes his return to the majors as the replacement for Brandon McCarthy, who has landed on the DL with a sore shoulder. Before getting demoted, Godfrey was struggling with his command, allowing as many free passes as strikeouts (seven), and was struggling to get deep into games. In his last start on April 20, Godfrey gave up four runs on three hits in 5.0 innings against the Cleveland Indians, striking out three and walking five. After getting sent down, Godfrey went 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA in five starts. The A’s hope he brings that kind of stuff up with him this time rather than a return to the form that got him demoted.

May 23: Jeff Weaver (6-1, 2.80 ERA) vs Jarrod Parker (1-2, 3.90 ERA)

Weaver followed up his worst outing of the year with another gem as he continues to state his case for the AL Cy Young. Against San Diego, Weaver went 7.0 innings, giving up two runs on three hits (two singles and a solo home run), striking out four and walking three. Outside of the home run, it was exactly the kind of dominant outing the Angels expected from their ace. This will be Weaver’s second start against Oakland this season. In the first time around, Weaver took a shutout into the seventh inning, giving up five hits, striking out six and walking one. He’ll look to duplicate those results this time around and close out this series strong.

Parker was called up by the A’s in late April and has made five starts so far this year. Through his first three, he was looking very good, giving up just four runs and 15 hits, striking out 12 and walking eight, coming away with a win and two no-decisions. In his last two outings, he has fallen off quite a bit, giving up eight runs on ten hits, striking out five while walking eight in a pair of losses. His last outing against the Giants was his worst yet, giving up six runs in just 2.0 innings off four hits, walking four and striking out none. It will a tall task for the young righty to regain some confidence after back-to-back tough outings by putting together some strong innings.

Storylines to Watch

The Angels offense continues to be a topic of conversation as it still can’t seem to gain any traction towards becoming the offense that they were supposed to be. After a strong showing in the series opener against San Diego, putting up seven runs, they fell back into their typical practice of disappearing for the rest of the series. Now, there are also going to be some concerns about the depth of this team. Thought to be one of its biggest strengths when Spring Training broke, the release of Bobby Abreu and injuries to Chris Iannetta, LaTroy Hawkins, Vernon Wells, and Ryan Langerhans will be stretching the roster pretty thin. Can they withstand the diminished lineup, or maybe even flourish as some young talent gets a chance for every day playing time?

The A’s can commiserate with the Angels on their injury woes. The A’s have eight players on the disabled list right now, including: Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Brandon Inge, Joey Devine, Scott Sizemore, and most recently Brandon McCarthy. That’s pretty much the heart of their offense, defense, and pitching staff sitting on the shelf. Yet, they’ve continued to play .500 baseball in spite of it, and even taken four of six from the Angels this season. Can they keep treading water until their strength returns to them and maybe make some noise late in the summer?

Season Implications

The implications in the AL West race are pretty easy to see. The Angels slipped back into fourth place after dropping two of three to San Diego and are now half a game back of Seattle, three games behind Oakland, and a dreadful eight games back of Texas. With a quarter of the season in the books, the Angels need to start making a move up the standings and getting a shot at a club they are directly chasing is a good way to get that done.

The Athletics are performing better than anyone expected them to. They’re in second place and sitting at .500 despite having one of the worst offenses in all of baseball and having the lineup decimated by injuries. They’d like to keep this run going, and putting a little extra cushion between them and one of the teams chasing them would do a great deal to help the A’s and their fans sleep a little bit better at night.

The Hangout View

The Vernon Wells injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the Angels. The move will force Mike Scioscia to play both Mike Trout AND Peter Bourjos in the same lineup, which is going to significantly increase the team’s speed in the field and on the basepaths. Maybe transitioning to more small-ball tactics using their speed and patience at the plate will help the club to manufacture a few extra runs rather than waiting for the big bats to show up and save the day. Getting the trio of Williams-Wilson-Weaver on the hill for the series is a big help too, leading to a very successful series for the Halos. The Angels will sweep the A’s in Oakland.

Tags: AL West Angels Athletics Series Preview

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