The Angels are enjoying life as the hottest team in baseball (Image: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE)

Series Preview: Angels vs. Yankees


The Los Angeles Angels (24-25) welcome the New York Yankees (26-21) to Anaheim to start a nine-game home stand in a matchup of preseason AL favorites that suffered a sluggish start to the season. The Angels are 1-2 against the Yankees this season.

Previous Series

Angels @ Mariners (W 3-0, W 6-4, W 5-3, W 4-2)

The Angels went to Seattle to face off with the Mariners for the first time this season. Dan Haren took the hill for the series opener looking to bounce back from some rough outings where he suffered from lower back stiffness. He bounced back, all right, turning in one of the best performances in Angels history, pitching a complete game shutout, striking out a career high 14 and walking none, becoming the first Angels pitcher to strike out at least 14 batters without issuing a walk. He also recorded his 1,500th career strikeout when he got Michael Saunders in the eighth inning. The offense was paced by Albert Pujols, who hit his 450th home run in his career with a monster two-run shot in the first inning. He would also steal a base and score the third Angel run, giving the Halos and Haren all the offensive support they needed.

Game 2 saw Ervin Santana take the hill to try and keep the Halos winning streak going. He struggled early, giving up a home run and putting LA in a 4-0 hole. The offense rallied and bailed Santana out of taking the loss behind a three-run home run by Pujols, his second blast in as many games in the sixth. The rally was capped by Howie Kendrick‘s pinch-hit single in the ninth which drove in the go-ahead run off Seattle closer Brandon League. Jason Isringhausen was credited with the win and Scott Downs shut the door for the save. The rally extended the Halo winning streak to four games.

Jerome Williams got the call for game three, and looked pretty good over six innings of work, allowing three runs on five hits. Jordan Walden, Downs, and Ernesto Frieri combined for one-hit the rest of the way with Frieri earning his second save of the season. Pujols hit another home run, his third in three days, and Alberto Callaspo hit a pinch-hit grand slam off Felix Hernandez to seal the victory for the Angels, their fifth in a row.

In the series finale, C.J. Wilson got the opportunity to close out the sweep for the Angels. He allowed just one run on two hits before leaving in the sixth inning with a blister on his left hand. The offense was driven by Kendrys Morales, who had three hits, including a home run, drove in a pair of runs and scored a pair. Walden allowed his first run since being demoted from the closer role, but the bullpen was able to shut the door with Scott Downs earning his fifth save of the season, sealing the four game sweep. It was the first four-game road sweep of Seattle for the Angels since 1985, and extended their winning streak to a season high six games, the longest current streak in the majors.

Yankees @ Athletics (W 6-3, W 9-2, W 2-0)

New York started a long road trip with a stop in Oakland against the A’s. In the series opener, Ivan Nova got the start, going seven innings and surrendering three runs. He got plenty of support from his offense as Mark Texeira and Nick Swisher each hit two-run home runs and Robinson Cano added one of his own. Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his fourth save in as many chances.

In Game 2, the Yankees offense continued its resurgence in support of starter C.C. Sabathia. Texeira matched a career-high with four hits, including a pair of home runs, and Robinson Cano hit his second home run in as many games to bury the A’s. Sabathia, with about 200 friends and family in the stands, allowed just two runs on seven hits, striking out four and walking a pair over seven innings.

For the series finale, Hiroki Kuroda got the start, looking for his first road win of the season. He turned in one of his strongest showings of the year, pitching eight shutout innings against an overmatched Oakland offense. Andruw Jones hit a solo home run, giving New York all the offense it needed, and Derek Jeter passed George Brett for 14th place on the all-time hits list. New York ran its win streak to five games with the sweep. They have not lost in Oakland since 2010.

Pitching Matchups

May 28: Jered Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA) vs Phil Hughes (4-5, 4.94 ERA)

Jered Weaver has been a certified ace for the Angels this season. He’s allowed more than three runs in a start just twice this season, and has been roughed up just once during the team’s trip to Texas. At home, Weaver has been unbeatable, going 4-0 in four starts, including his no-hitter earlier this year against Minnesota. Weaver looked strong in his last start, going eight innings against Oakland, giving up just one run, striking out four and walking just two. Weaver has been good against the Yankees and will look to keep his strong home record intact.

Hughes has had some struggles so far this season but has looked better recently. He has allowed at least one home run in each start but owns an impressive 46:13 K:BB ratio. In his last start, a six inning start against Kansas City where he gave up two runs on five hits. While he has maintained an impressive strikeout total, he has had difficulty keeping opponents in the yard and owns a terrible 31.1% ground ball rate on the season.

May 29: Dan Haren (2-5, 3.76 ERA) vs Andy Pettitte (2-1, 2.53 ERA)

Haren has overcome some lower back stiffness to put on a dominant effort against the Mariners. He pitched a complete game shutout, striking out a career-high 14 while walking zero, setting an Angels record for strikeouts without a walk. Haren’s season has been a frustrating disappointment, as he has not quite lived up to the expectation level set by being named co-ace of the Angels staff. The gem against Seattle could be the turning point for Haren to getting back to the form that earned him the co-ace role to begin with.

Andy Pettitte came out of retirement to re-join the Yankees staff and has been a stabilizing force for a tumultuous rotation. With injuries and disappointments, the Yankees starters have been stretched thin over the first month and a half of the season. Pettitte fast-tracked his comeback and has rounded into form faster than anyone expected. In his last start, Pettitte went seven innings, striking out eight while walking one and giving up just two runs on seven hits. Pettitte has been striking batters out at a career rate of 8.02 K/9IP, but has given up four home runs over his three starts. Things will look to get more difficult for Pettitte as the Yankees start playing more teams with playoff aspirations and talent.

May 30: Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.45 ERA) vs Ivan Nova (5-2, 5.46 ERA)

Santana has been another pitcher that suffered through a rough start but has looked better lately. After starting the season 0-6 and getting just three runs of support over those six starts, Santana has won his last two decisions. He struggled in his last outing where he gave up four runs and a home run to the Mariners. The offense came back to rally and bail Santana out from taking the loss. Getting back to the friendly confines of Anaheim will help Santana keep hits in the yard and could be the key for Santana limiting the damage done by the Yankees lineup.

Nova is one of the good young arms in the Yankees rotation that has been suffering from inconsistency this season. He has gotten the benefit of run support, though, which has helped him to a sparkly 5-2 record. He’s been pitching better lately, coming off a pair of starts where he has struck out 16 batters combined. Against Oakland in his last start, he allowed three runs on six hits, striking out four and walking one through seven innings. He did get dinged by a pair of home runs, something he’s struggled with all season, and his ERA still sits above 5, but a pair of strong starts will act as a solid momentum boost for the young hurler.

Storylines to Watch

The Angels have put together a six game winning streak to become the hottest team in baseball. The offense is coming alive, the bullpen is coming together, and the starting pitching is living up to the expectations heaped on them during spring training. Can they keep the strong play rolling with now that the easy part of their schedule is now in their rear view. With the equally streaking Yankees and division leading Rangers on the docket, many questions will get answered about how legitimate this Angels turnaround really is.

The Yankees have out together their own winning streak after a sluggish start to the season. Can their starting pitching gel into a cohesive unit? Is the slow start of their sluggers Texeira and Alex Rodriguez in the rear view for good? A long road trip will be good for this team’s cohesiveness and with matchups with preseason AL favorites Angels and Tigers coming up, the Bombers will know how close they are to returning to the top of the AL East.

Season Implications

The Angels have ridden this hot streak to a game under .500 and into sole possession of second place in the AL West. They still have 6.5 games to make up on Texas, but will want to ride this positive momentum as long as possible to cut into the Rangers lead and really start to make their move in the division.

The Yankees have unexpectedly been looking up on the AL East all season, but they are making their move to rectify that. They sit 3.5 games back of Tampa and Baltimore, and will look to stake their claim as one of the best in the AL with a strong road trip against a couple of AL contenders.

The Hangout View

The last time these two teams met, the Yankees took two of three in the Bronx in their home opener. The Angels were a mess at that point, and things still hadn’t hit rock bottom for the Yanks. Both teams have gotten better since the last time they met and should be a great matchup of AL playoff teams. Having the home advantage and a red-hot offense give the Angels two of three against New York.

Tags: Angels Series Preview Yankees