Can the Angels keep their momentum from Oakland going? (Image: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE)

Series Preview: Angels @ Mariners


The Los Angeles Angels (20-25) head to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Seattle Mariners (21-25) for the first time this season in a matchup of the bottom of the AL West.

Previous Series

Angels @ Athletics (L 1-2, W 5-0, W 3-1)

The Angels entered this series three games behind Oakland and were hoping to make up some ground in the division. In the opener, Jerome Williams got the call and looked strong, pitching into the seventh inning, surrendering just two runs on five hits, striking out two. However, the struggling Angels offense couldn’t find an answer for A’s starter Tommy Milone, getting just one run on five hits over his 7.0 innings of work. The loss was the third straight for the Angels, and the first for Williams since his first start of the season against New York.

For Game 2, C.J. Wilson took the hill looking to bounce back from a couple of rough outings over his last few starts. He put together a gem, pitching 8.0 shutout innings, allowing just a single hit, striking out seven and walking two. Ernesto Frieri came on to pitch a perfect ninth to combine for a one-hit shutout. It was the sixth shutout pitched by the Angels this season, the best mark in the majors. The offense found itself early in this game, scoring three runs in the first inning. Albert Pujols knocked in a pair of runs, including a solo blast in the third to lead the Halos offense.

For the rubber match, Jered Weaver got the start for the Angels looking to take a series against Oakland for the first time this season. He was dominant again, pitching eight innings, allowing just one run, a solo home run, on three hits, striking out four and walking a pair. He would leave with a no-decision, however, as the offense could not push across more than a single run without going to extra innings. In the 11th, Alberto Callaspo drove in a pair of runs with a double to put the Angels ahead. Jordan Walden pitched a clean 10th inning for the win, and Frieri came in to close it out for his first save of the season.

Mariners vs Rangers (W 6-1, L 1-3, W 5-3)

The Mariners opened up a three game series against the division leading Texas Rangers hoping to make up some ground at home. For the series opener, M’s ace Felix Hernandez took the hill and shut down baseball’s top offense. He went 8.0 innings, surrendering just one run on six hits, and striking out seven. The Mariners offense jumped all over Rangers starter Yu Darvish, chasing him after just four innings (his shortest outing of the season) after scoring four runs. The offense was led by Ichiro Suzuki, who knocked in two runs on two hits, including a triple, and scored a run.

For Game 2, Seattle sent Hector Noesi to the hill to try and keep the Mariners’ momentum rolling. He put together a strong start, pitching 8.0 innings, giving up just three runs on three hits, striking out seven and walking two, but came away with the loss as his offense couldn’t solve the Rangers pitching. The M’s would out-hit Texas seven to four, but failed to push across more than just the one run in the first off a Justin Smoak single.

For the series finale, the Mariners sent Kevin Millwood out for the start to try and take the series. He stifled the Rangers bats better than anyone could have hoped, pitching 6.0 innings of shutout ball, scattering three hits, striking out a pair and walking just one. The M’s built up a 5-0 lead off an Alex Liddi grand slam in the 5th inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman and held on despite a late Rangers rally as Brandon League shut the door for his ninth save of the season, sealing the series for Seattle.

Pitching Matchups

May 24: Dan Haren (1-5, 4.37 ERA) vs Jason Vargas (5-3, 3.34 ERA)

Haren is mired in a bit of a rough patch. He’s lost his last four decisions, allowing three or more runs in each of them, and has been struggling with stiffness in his lower back. He’s getting little to no run support in his starts, only two runs for over his last four starts, which ramps up the pressure on Haren to be perfect, which he has not been. He didn’t look too bad though in his last start against San Diego, pitching 6.2 innings, allowing only three runs on six hits, striking out five and walking only one. He was foiled by his offense only being able to put together a pair of runs in support. Haren will try to get back on track in pitcher-friendly Safeco against another soft-hitting club in the Mariners.

Jason Vargas has been a strong starter for this Mariners rotation this season. In ten starts, Vargas has allowed more than three runs just three times. He’s posting an impressive 1.02 WHIP this season and limiting opposing lineups to just a .209 batting average against. Vargas has been particularly strong for Seattle at home this season. In three starts, the lefty has allowed three runs on 13 hits, striking out 18 and walking just five. He hasn’t surrendered a home run in Safeco this season yet and is a perfect 2-0 so far. He’ll be a tough matchup for an Angels offense that is still trying to figure out just who they are.

May 25: Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.22 ERA) vs Blake Beavan (2-4, 4.46 ERA)

Santana has turned his season around after a disastrous start. Since losing his first six decisions, Santana is 2-0 over his last three starts, surrendering just four runs on 16 hits combined, striking out 16 and walking eight over that span. In his last start against San Diego, he pitched six strong innings, allowing just two runs on six hits, striking out six and walking a pair. He couldn’t get any help from his offense, who managed just a pair of runs against the Padres, and he left with the no-decision. Santana has seemingly found the consistently productive pitcher he has been for the Angels over the last several years, and should put forth another quality start.

Blake Beavan is a strong young starter for Seattle who’s been working on a pretty decent sophomore season. His win-loss record isn’t great, but three of his losses have come with zero runs of support. He’s allowed more than three runs in a start just once this season. In his last start, Beavan pitched 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits against Colorado. He would strike out a season high seven and walk just one. Beavan’s biggest problem has been his inability to pitch deep into games. He hasn’t been able to pitch into the seventh inning over his last six starts. Also troubling, while showing signs of good strikeout stuff, Beavan has been inconsistent in getting hitters to swing and miss. He’s recorded two or fewer strikeouts in three of his eight starts.

May 26: Jerome Williams (4-2, 3.74 ERA) vs Felix Hernandez (4-3, 2.80 ERA)

Williams has really become one of the solid contributors of this rotation after many thought he would be the weak link coming out of spring training. After losing his opening start, he’s won four of his last five decisions, and probably should have won his last start against the A’s. His control was a bit of an issue in that start, walking five, but he surrendered just two runs and worked out of trouble to keep his team in the game. Unfortunately for him, his offense couldn’t pick him up. Williams should keep his strong start going in Seattle, and will hope that his offense comes alive behind him.

That may be a tall order, though, as they’ll have to go up against the ace of Seattle’s staff, Felix Hernandez. Hernandez has had a few bumps in the road, including consecutive rough outings at New York and at Cleveland, but he bounced back to his dominant self in his last start against Texas. He took a four-hit shutout into the eighth inning against baseball’s best-hitting team before he left a change up over the plate for a solo shot. He looked like vintage Felix as he attacked the zone and kept the hitters off balance. If he brings that same game against the Angels, Los Angeles could be in for a long day at the plate.

May 27: C.J. Wilson (5-4, 2.90 ERA) vs Hector Noesi (2-5, 5.26 ERA)

Wilson has hit also hit a slight rough patch on his season prior to his last start. He seems to have put that behind him, though, with his performance in the one-hitter against Oakland. Prior to that, he had lost two straight decisions and saw his ERA top out at 3.46. He has it back down under 3 now at 2.90 after his eight shutout innings, and is still holding opponents to just a .191 batting average against this season. His walks have been a bit more frequent than anyone would like, but he continues to work himself out of jams with strikeouts and ground balls, giving the Angels a great shot at a win every time he’s on the hill.

Noesi is another  young arm for the Mariners that is working on putting together a strong sophomore season. He’s struggled with consistency this season, giving up four or more runs in four of his nine starts, and he’s been chased twice before making past the third inning. In his last start against Texas, Noesi pitched well enough to win, allowing just three runs over 8.0 innings, but couldn’t get help from his offense. Noesi has been much better at home than on the road this season, posting a 3.86 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP at Safeco, compared with a 6.32 ERA and 1.30 WHIP everywhere else.

Storylines to Watch

The Angels finally won a series against Oakland, and are now 4-5 against the A’s on the year. As the last place team in the division, they need to start playing better against their division. Another thing they need to improve if they hope to turn things around is their record on the road, just 9-15 this season, the worst road mark in the American League. They’ll get a chance to improve on both of those things in this series.

The Mariners have been very up and down this season. Some nights, they put together hits and runs like they play for Texas, and the rest of the time they look like the Mariners we’ve come to expect. If they can get some consistent offense to go along with their strong pitching staff, they could start to make some noise in the division. Of course, that’s easier said than done, since this team has been trying to find that offense since they lost it after the 2002 season.

Season Implications

For the Angels, they need to make their move sooner rather than later. They trail the Mariners in the division by half a game, so taking this series will be a huge help in finally getting out of the cellar for good. Improving against their division rivals is going to be the key to turning around the season for Los Angeles and be pivotal in them cutting into the Rangers division lead.

For the Mariners, they would really like to not be in the running for last place in the West anymore. Taking advantage of the Angels spotty defense and taking this series to bury L.A. a little deeper into fourth would be huge for this team as they can then focus their efforts on catching Oakland.

The Hangout View

The Angels pitching has been lights out over the last week, allowing three runs or fewer in six straight games. Look for that trend to continue against a streaky Seattle offense, giving the Angels bats a chance to do something against the M’s pitching staff. Angels take three of four in Seattle.

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