Series Preview: Angels vs. Athletics


The Angels (3-6) dropped their series (that’s already getting old to say) in New York and finished their road trip a pretty terrible 2-4. Los Angeles returns to the West Coast for a home stand starting with a four-game series against division foe Oakland (4-6) in a matchup of the bottom of the AL West.

Previous Series:

Angels @ Yankees (L 0-5, W 7-1, L 5-11)

The Angels continued their road trip west in the home opening series for the Yankees. The same stumbling blocks that plagued the Angels in their first two series (pitching and offense) once again cost them two of three against the Yanks. Ervin Santana continued his woeful outing against the Yankees, lasting six innings, giving up five runs, two home runs, striking out five while walking three. The Angels offense meanwhile, had no answer for the Yankees Hiroki Kuroda, who shut out the Halos lineup and spread out five hits over eight innings. C.J. Wilson came out the next day and made his case towards being the top Angels pitcher of this young season. Helped by an offensive rush on the Angels’ part, Wilson controlled the Yankees lineup, going six innings, striking out two and walking another two while giving up just one run, while the offense launched three home runs, a three-run blast by Howie Kendrick leading the way to go along a two-run shot by Chris Iannetta and a solo dinger by Vernon Wells. Jerome Williams took the mound for the series finale in a start that he admitted to be “anxious” about beforehand, and got chased early. He lasted just 2.2 innings in his first start of the season, giving up five runs on five hits, striking out one hitter while walking three. His inability to sustain a start put additional pressure on an already taxed bullpen, who weren’t able to stop the bleeding, giving up another six runs the rest of the way. Also of note: still no home runs for Albert Pujols (marking his longest drought to start a season in his career) or Kendrys Morales.

Athletics @ Mariners (W 4-0, L 0-4, L 3-5)

The A’s went up to Seattle for a three game series and came away losing two of three, getting shutout once and showing a general deficiency when it came to the offensive side of things, failing to get more than the nine hits they got in the series opening win. Bartolo Colon started the series with a strong performance, alternating good and bad starts against the M’s (Japan start good, Oakland start very bad). The hefty righty went seven innings of shutout ball, giving up just three hits, striking out five while walking just one. The next night saw the A’s get shut down by Mariners youngster Hector Noesi while Tommy Milone gave up four runs on four hits, striking out five and walking two over 6.0 innings. For the series finale, the A’s rallied momentarily from a 3-0 deficit to tie the Mariners 3-3 in the fifth before giving up an additional two runs to Seattle in the bottom of the inning to lose the game and drop the series.

Pitching Matchup:

April 16: Jered Weaver (1-0, 3.21 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy(0-1, 2.50 ERA)

Weaver returns to the mound for this third start of the season, looking to bounce back from a rough outing against Minnesota which he came away from with a no-decision. The Angels ace lasted 6.0 innings, striking out seven, walking just one, but giving up five runs on seven hits. The Twins were expected to be an easy win for Weaver, who looked dominant in his season opening 10 strikeout shutout of the Royals, but Weaver got himself into trouble in the seventh putting two men on before handing the ball over to the bullpen, who gave up the inherited runners and another of their own, resulting in a loss for the team and a no-decision for Weaver. The Angels hope a return home will help keep Weaver focused throughout his entire start and another favorable matchup against an Athletics squad who has shown some offensive limitations so far this season should lead to strong showing from the Halos number one.

McCarthy will take the mound for his fourth start of the year, earning a loss and two no-decisions in his previous three starts. In his last start, McCarthy worked his way through 6.0 innings, giving up two runs on six hits, striking out four and walking two. The A’s ace has been strong in two of his three starts, but did have one rough outing in Oakland’s home opener against the Mariners where he labored through 5.0 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits in a 7-3 loss to Seattle. In order for McCarthy to be successful against the Angels, he’ll need to maintain some control and consistency to avoid getting into trouble. He’ll need to be extra sharp as the A’s probably can’t count on tallying too many runs against Weaver in the pitcher-friendly confines of Angels Stadium.

April 17: Dan Haren (0-1, 6.97 ERA) vs. Tyson Ross (0-0)

Haren has yet to pitch to the expectations placed on the Halos number two during the offseason. He’s yet to pitch past the sixth inning, needing 94 pitches to get through 5.0 innings in his last start against Minnesota, giving up three runs on nine hits, striking out seven and walking just one. He showed flashes of the pitcher the Angels hoped he would be early in Minnesota, cruising until Joe Mauer hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth. The Angels need Haren to find his groove in order to turn around the early struggles of the Angels. Haren returned from the road trip early back to Orange County in order to get some extra preparation for this start. Home cooking and a struggling A’s team could be just what the doctor ordered to get Haren out of his early slump.

Tyson Ross is set to make his first start of the season as he comes up to the big leagues after a pair of minor league starts at triple-A Sacramento. He looks poised to move into the Athletics fifth starter role after making spot starts for the A’s over the last couple of seasons. In 2011, Ross made six starts, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.75 ERA. The lanky 6’6″ 24-year old has 56 career strike outs in the majors, walking 33 in 75.1 innings. He pitches to contact, inducing groundballs to get outs, posting a career 1.65 ground out to air out ratio, so his pitching style should translate well to the big leagues. He will have a tough first start this season, coming up against an Angels team that you have to figure will work out their offensive woes at some point. He’ll have the benefit of youth to allow him to pitch without fear on the road, but will that be enough for him to contain the Halos’ sluggers?

April 18: Ervin Santana (0-2, 7.71 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (2-1, 3.72 ERA)

Probably the most disappointing of the Angels’ starters, Santana has looked pretty terrible in back to back starts to begin the season. He opened the year as the number three pitcher in the rotation and got to start in the opening series against Kansas City, where he gave up six runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings. Manager Mike Scioscia called Santana’s ball-to-strike ratio “terrible” and Santana couldn’t get any consistency in his delivery from pitch to pitch. He followed up that lackluster performance with another one in the Yankees’ home opener, going 6.0 innings, surrendering five runs on six hits, striking out five and walking three. Santana has given up four home runs in his two starts, falling to the same shortcomings that undercut him against KC. Scioscia gave Santana a vote of confidence this offseason, installing him as the third starter over new arrival C.J. Wilson, rewarding Santana for his consistent performance for the Angels over the last several seasons. Santana hasn’t looked like that same person at all so far, though, and will need to return to his former self if he wants to help turn this early slide around for the Angels and prove to Halos fans that the team’s faith wasn’t misplaced.

Bartolo Colon has been on a Jekyll-and-Hyde like run so far this season. In his first start in Japan against Seattle, he looked strong, going 8.0 innings, giving up just one run on three hits, striking out six and walking one. Then, when the A’s returned home, Colon looked awful against the same Mariners team that he had dominated in Japan. In his Oakland debut, Colon lasted just 4.1 innings, surrendering seven runs on 10 hits, striking out three and walking none. In his third start, this time in Seattle against the Mariners (again), and he looked stronger than his Japan start, giving up no runs on three hits, striking out seven while walking one over 7.0 innings of work. Now, Colon will make his first start against a team other than the Mariners. The Angels lineup, at least on paper, should be a stiffer test for Colon. Which Colon will show up (the Jekyll is due up if the pattern holds) will go a long way in determining how the A’s do in this game. If Colon struggles and Santana continues his putrid trend, this one could be a football score of a baseball game.

April 19: C.J. Wilson (2-0, 1.38 ERA) vs. Tommy Milone (1-1, 2.57 ERA)

Wilson has been the Angels lone consistent pitching option over the first two trips through the rotation. He’s given up a total of two runs in two starts on just nine hits. In his last start, Wilson controlled the Yankees, giving up one run on six hits through 6.0 innings, earning his first win at Yankee Stadium. Wilson’s control looked to be a minor issue after his first outing in Minnesota where he walked four, but he followed it up by walking just a pair of Yanks in the Big Apple. He’s looked in control of games, consistently working out of jams with a cool confidence that has come to define the lefty throughout his career. He will look to keep his hot start rolling as he goes up against the light-hitting A’s in his first start in his new home park. The So-Cal native will be looking to shine in his homecoming debut and wrap up a hopefully successful return to Anaheim.

Milone will make his third start of the season, looking to continue a pretty solid start to his 2012. Milone opened the season by pitching 8.0 strong shutout innings against Kansas City, scattering three hits with no runs, no strikeouts, and three walks. He followed up that winning performance with a decent showing against Seattle, going 6.0 innings and running into trouble just twice; first in the second with a solo shot by Jesus Montero and an extended rally in the sixth inning for three more runs. In Seattle, Milone struck out five, a career high, and walked five, surrendering seven hits. The young lefty is not going to be blowing any batters out of the box with his stuff, but he has been effective getting hitters to slap it towards his defense, something he’ll need to continue to do if he hopes to keep his successful start going.

Storylines to watch:

The Angels need to win some games in a row. Losing three straight series wasn’t in anybody’s predictions for this Angels team. And being last in the division after nine games? That was what Oakland was supposed to be for…no offense. The starting pitching needs to find some consistency and the offense needs to provide some pop like everyone expected from them. There may also need to be some consistency in the starting lineup as Scioscia has used seven different lineups through the first eight games. Coming home against a division opponent will give the Halos a chance to get out of the cellar in the West and try and build some momentum to get back on track. When will Pujols or Morales hit their first home run? Will Scioscia find a lineup card that he likes? Can this pitching staff live up to the hype they got during the spring? Hopefully, some of these questions will get some answers (in the positive) with the Angels returning home.

The A’s have shown flashes of pretty decent baseball early this season. Not enough to still be over .500 after 10 games, and playing seven games against a Seattle team that isn’t expected to be much of a factor come August and September may have bloated the accomplishments of this team, but there’s definitely something there. Yoenis Cespedes may knock a ball off the planet this year with the power he’s shown early, for example, and is going to be one of the fun talents to watch develop this season. But can the A’s find some other offense to go with him? A lineup cannot live on one masher alone, and if the rest of the squad doesn’t pick it up, Cespedes is going to have a lonely time seeing garbage pitches the rest of the season.

Season implications:

The Angels should not be a team in fourth place of the AL West with the amount of talent and money invested in this lineup. Facing off against Oakland will give Los Angeles a chance to fix that and climb out of the cellar back towards competing for the West. The Angels, currently sitting three games under .500, can also take advantage of a favorable matchup against Oakland to get back onto the right side of the win-loss ratio. For the A’s, they’ll get a much truer test than their mini-marathon session against Seattle, and should get a better sense of who they are as a team and what they can really expect in 2012.

The Hangout View:

Things have to turn around at some point…right? Oakland coming to Angels Stadium seems to be the most favorable matchup for the Halos to turn things around, but the question will be if Los Angeles can take advantage. There was a thought that the Angels would breeze through a light-hitting Minnesota club, and we all saw how that turned out. The starting pitching will finally come around as a whole in this series and put together some quality starts back-to-back in this four game series. Angels win three of four and climb out of the cellar of the West, moving ahead of the A’s and getting within striking distance of .500.