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The Angels took two (thanks Mike) of three against Texas, narrowing the AL West race (Image: Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE)

Series Preview: Angels vs Mariners

The Los Angeles Angels (28-27) finish up their nine-game home stand with a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners (24-32) in an AL West matchup. The Angels are 4-0 against the Mariners this season.

Previous Series

Angels vs Rangers (W 4-2, W 3-2, L 3-7)

The Angels welcomed the division leading Rangers to Anaheim in a matchup of the top two teams in the AL West, looking to gain ground on Texas. In the series opener, Jerome Williams got the start and pitched strong through 7.0 innings, allowing a pair of runs on seven hits while striking out four and walking two. The Angels rallied from a 2-0 deficit behind the offense of Mike Trout, who tripled home a run and scored on an Albert Pujols sac-fly in the sixth and then drove in the go-ahead runs in the seventh with a single. Ernesto Frieri came on in the ninth and extended his hitless streak since joining the Angels, earning his third save of the season in the process.

For Game 2, C.J. Wilson got another shot at facing his Texas replacement Yu Darvish after their first meeting was interrupted by a two-hour rain delay in Arlington. Both pitchers would stay in the game and pitch well, but neither would factor in the decision. Wilson would go 6.0 innings of shutout ball, allowing five hits while striking out five and walking three. He left the game with the lead, which Jordan Walden promptly surrendered in the seventh to allow the Rangers to tie the game 1-1. The Angels would rally in the bottom half of the inning, adding two runs off an Alberto Callaspo single and a Kendrys Morales sac-fly, while also getting the benefit of a controversial call at the plate. Frieri once again pitched a clean ninth inning and captured his fourth save.

The Angels gave Dan Haren the start for the chance at the sweep. Haren went five innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, striking out two and walking a pair. The bullpen wasn’t able to keep things close as Bobby Cassevah surrendered three runs on three hits and a pair of walks when he was put back out on the hill after laboring through one inning. John Hester provided a bit of offense when he hit a solo home run in the sixth inning, accounting for the first run produced by an Angels catcher since Chris Iannetta went on the DL after wrist surgery on May 8. The Angels failed to complete the sweep, but ended up taking the series with two wins against the Rangers.

Mariners @ White Sox (L 4-7, W 10-8 (12), L 2-4)

The Mariners were coming off a series win against the Texas Rangers where they scored 31 combined runs in two wins. They traveled to Chicago to take on the White Sox, hoping to keep their hot offense rolling. Felix Hernandez took the hill for the series opener and experienced one of his few rough outings of the season, getting touched for four runs on five hits and four walks over 5.0 innings, striking out six. The Mariners rallied to tie the game back up at 4-4 with a two-run Kyle Seager home run in the seventh and RBI singles by Seager and Justin Smoak in the eighth. However, Shawn Kelley pitched the bottom of the eighth and was hit with three unearned runs as the M’s dropped the series opener to Chicago.

Hector Noesi got the start for the second game of the season, and struggled to take advantage of some strong offensive support. The Mariners led off the first three innings of the game with a home-run, a pair by Ichiro Suzuki and one by Justin Smoak. Michael Saunders added another long ball, a two-run shot, in the fourth. Noesi labored through 4.1 innings, surrendering six runs on seven hits, striking out five with no walks. The Mariners would rally to tie the game 7-7 off a Brendan Ryan double in the eight, scoring a pair of M’s. The game would stretch into extra innings where John Jaso finally pushed across the go-ahead run in the 12th-inning. Hisashi Iwakuma closed out the Sox in the bottom of the 12th to record the save.

Kevin Millwood took the hill for the series finale and was hindered by control problems the whole day. He labored through four innings, giving up four runs on seven hits, striking out four but walking five. The M’s offense was unable to rally behind him, as they struggled to figure out White Sox starter Chris Sale, who pitched a complete-game five hitter. The only damage done by Seattle came off a two-run home run by Miguel Olivo. The M’s would lose the game, and the series, ending their trip to Chicago on a sour note.

Pitching Matchups

June 4: Ervin Santana (2-6, 4.78 ERA) vs Jason Vargas (6-4, 3.45 ERA)

Santana has been the weak link of the Angels rotation this season, leading the majors in home runs allowed (15). He has struggled to find himself this season, unable to repeat pitches, creating inconsistent delivery and consistent lift-off for batters. He allowed a pair of home runs in his last start against the Yankees, en route to giving up five runs on six hits in 5.0 innings of work during a winning-streak ending loss. In his last outing against the Mariners, Santana allowed four runs on four hits, including a home run, while striking out three and walking seven. The offense rallied to bail him out of taking the loss in both those starts. Santana will need to rely on another bail-out if he doesn’t fix whatever is ailing him quickly.

Vargas has been a strong second pitcher for the Mariners this season behind Felix Hernandez. He currently ranks fifth in the AL in WHIP (1.03) and has given up three runs or fewer in four of his last five starts. His last outing came against the Rangers, where he came away with the win allowing three runs in five hits over 6.2 innings. He tempted fate a bit in Arlington, walking three and striking out only two while recording 10 fly ball outs, but was able to keep Texas in the yard and off the scoreboard. His last start against the Angels was a loss in which he gave up three runs on seven hits, including a home run, while striking out six and walking zero. The Seattle offense got blanked behind him, though, losing 3-0.

June 5: Garrett Richards (0-0) vs Blake Beavan (3-4, 4.72 ERA)

Garrett Richards will make his first start of the season, and just the fourth of his career, after getting called up to replace Angels ace Jered Weaver, currently on the 15-day DL with back spasms. Richards was in contention for the fifth starter job during spring training, but ultimately lost the job to Jerome Williams. Richards was sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he continued his strong spring with some impressive early starts. He has run into troubles lately, however, as he walked more than 20 batters with an ERA over 7 in his last six starts. The Angels will count on him as a stop-gap until Weaver returns, so he will need to be impressive out of the gate as his time to shine will be limited during this call-up.

Blake Beavan has been having an up-and-down season so far this year. He hasn’t been consistently dominant, and his low strikeout numbers (4.55 K/9IP) don’t point to that trend turning around. He’s made his mark, however, with his control, issuing just 1.46 BB/9IP this season. He’s a pitcher that relies on his defense to pick up the balls put in play, and sometimes that works, but other times, not so much. In his last start, Beavan allowed five runs on eight hits, striking out just two, but walking none, during 6.0 innings at Texas. Fortunately for him, his offense had spotted him a 17-run lead to work with, so he still walked away with a win. The last time he faced the Angels, Beavan allowed three runs on five hits, including a home run, while striking out one and walking a pair over 7.0 innings of work. Beavan walked away with a no-decision, but the Angels got the win.

June 6: Jerome Williams (6-2, 3.68 ERA) vs Felix Hernandez (4-4, 3.42 ERA)

Williams has found a career resurgence this season with the Angels. The former first-round pick turned journeyman 30-year old has been very good as the fifth starter, allowing more than 3 runs once in nine starts, and none since his opening day loss to the Yankees (his rough outing against Texas in Arlington was technically a relief appearance). He hasn’t been overpowering, posting a respectable 42:20 K:BB ratio, but he’s consistently worked out of trouble and become a solid contributor to the rotation. His last start came against Texas, where he allowed just two runs on seven hits, striking out four and walking a pair over 7.0 innings. This will be his second start against the Mariners after giving up three runs on five hits, walking two and striking out five in 6.0 innings the last time.

Hernandez is unquestionably the ace of the Mariners staff and one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, but the King has suffered some rough outings recently. Two starts ago, Hernandez took on the Angels and gave up five runs on ten hits, including a pair of home runs, while striking out seven and walking one in a 5-3 loss. In his last start against the White Sox, Felix allowed four runs on five hits, including three home runs, while striking out six and walking four. Overall, Hernandez has allowed 10 runs off six home runs in his last three starts, far from the sharp performance we’ve come to expect from the former Cy Young winner. After the loss against Chicago, Hernandez complained of back stiffness, which the team has been monitoring. If the back isn’t better by Monday, the team has said it will consider skipping their ace in the rotation this time around to allow him some extra time to heal.

Storylines to Watch

The Angels have made up some serious ground in the AL West race and are looking poised to make some serious noise. Have they really figured things out, though, or are they just riding a hot streak? How will the team strike a balance between its young talent in the outfield with their high-priced veterans as they make their return to the team?

For the Mariners, it’s the same song, different verse: can they get some consistency from their offense? And if they can, will their pitching hold up? After scoring 31 runs in a pair of wins against Texas, the M’s scored four runs or more twice against the White Sox and went 1-1. This club needs to click on all facets (pitching, hitting, defense) in order to string together some wins, but haven’t been able to get all three on the same page much this season.

Season Implications

The Angels have finally starter their move up the AL West, and need this series to keep that momentum going. They were able to take two of three from the Rangers, picking up another game and closing the Rangers’ division lead to 4.5 games. They need to replicate their trip to Seattle to keep pressure on Texas and continue their surge.

For Seattle, now is the time to decide whether or not they will be contending by the trade deadline or unloading their roster for prospects. Texas obviously had themselves figured out since Opening Day (hit ball far), and the Angels seem to be turning that corner as well. The M’s need to start stringing some wins together (more than two) or get left behind in the West and have nothing but a race for fourth place with Oakland to play for.

The Hangout View

The Angels offense finally looks like it has remembered what hitting is, which will go a long way in putting runs on the board (hitting as it turns out is pretty critical to run scoring). There are some question marks in the starting rotation for this series, namely Santana and Richards, which make it unlikely that the Halos will be able to replicate their four game sweep of the M’s the last time these clubs met. Angels win two of three from Seattle.

Tags: AL West Angels Mariners Series Preview

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