Series Preview: Angels vs Rangers


The Los Angeles Angels (26-26) welcome the Texas Rangers (30-21) to Anaheim in a matchup of the top two teams in the AL West. The Angels are 1-2 against the Rangers this season.

Previous Series

Angels vs Yankees (W 9-8, W 5-1, L 5-6)

The Angels welcomed New York to town just as they were getting hot, riding a six game winning streak after a four game sweep of Seattle. In Game 1, the Angels sent their ace Jered Weaver to the hill, but he lasted just 12 pitches, recording no outs, before having to leave the game with a back injury. He would be diagnosed with back spasms and place on the 15-day DL. Bobby Cassevah came on in relief, but couldn’t keep the Yankees off the board early and New York ended the top of the first inning with a 3-0 advantage. The offense would rally immediately, posting four runs in the bottom of the inning off RBI hits from Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, and Howie Kendrick. The game would be tied going into the bottom of the ninth where Trumbo led off with a towering shot to left and stayed just fair, giving the Angels the walk-off win and their seventh straight win. Jordan Walden pitched two innings for the first time in his career to get the win.

For Game 2, the Halos sent Dan Haren to the mound fresh off his 14-strikeout complete game shutout of the Mariners in his last start. He looked impressive again, pitching 7.0 innings, allowing one run on eight hits, striking out seven and walking none. The outing stretched Haren’s streak of walk-less innings to 16 while striking out 21. The offense jumped all over Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, scoring five runs on nine hits over seven plus innings, including three in the third off a Mike Trout triple and an Albert Pujols home run. Mark Trumbo homered as well for the third straight game and the Angels extended the winning streak to eight games.

In the series finale, the Halos gave Ervin Santana the start, who labored through 5.0 innings, giving up five runs on six hits, including a pair of home runs in the third inning to Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. The homers were number 14 and 15 surrendered by Santana this season, the most in the majors. Trumbo fueld a rally, knocking in three runs, including a two-run blas in the fourth, his fourth homer in as many days. He had a chance in the bottom of the ninth, with the Angels trailing by one and two men on, to play the hero once again, but flied out to left, ending the Halos winning streak.

Rangers @ Mariners (W 4-2, L 2-10, L 8-21)

The Rangers headed to the Pacific Northwest as one of the hottest teams in baseball, looking to take advantage of the fourth place Mariners. For the series opener, they put Matt Harrison on the hill, who turned in a strong performance, going 8.0 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, striking out five without allowing a walk. The offense consisted of a pair of home runs, a solo shot by Nelson Cruz in the second and a three-run blast for Mike Napoli in the sixth. It’s unclear whether or not Napoli texted C.J. Wilson afterwards to share his excitement. Joe Nathan pitched a clean ninth for his 11th save of the season.

Game 2 saw things start to turn a little sour for the Rangers pitching staff. Scott Feldman got the start and lasting just 4.2 innings, giving up four runs (two earned) on four hits, striking out three and walking three. He was touched for a two-run blast by John Jaso in the second and was lifted after a throwing error by Adrian Beltre allowed another pair of runs to score. Alexi Ogando ran into trouble in the eighth inning as the M’s hung three runs on him off four hits. Mike Adams relieved him and failed to record an out as he allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits and the Mariners added six runs in the eighth frame to distance themselves from Texas in the win. The Rangers defense committed a pair of errors that resulted in four unearned runs.

In the series finale, the wheels fell off for the Rangers. Derek Holland, 4-0 against the Mariners over the last two seasons, failed to get out of the second inning, surrendering eight runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs, striking out two and walking a pair as he labored through 1.2 innings. Yoshinori Tateyama came on in relief and followed suit, failing to last past the third inning, allowing six runs on seven hits, needed 44 pitches to record just two outs. The Mariners, who came into the series as one of the worst offensive teams in the American League, posted back-to-back eight-run innings as they built up a footballian 17-0 lead after four. The Rangers offense was able to ding Seattle starter Blake Beavan for five runs, and Hisashi Iwakuma for another three in relief, on singles and sacrifice hits, but couldn’t hope to match the offensive onslaught from the Mariners, dropping the game 21-8.

Pitching Matchups

June 1: Jerome Williams (5-2, 3.81 ERA) vs Colby Lewis (4-3, 3.58 ERA)

Jerome Williams has been a pleasant surprise for the Angels in the fifth starter role this season. He’s been solid nearly every time on the hill for the Halos, adding a steady arm that give the team an excellent shot at a win every fifth day. His last outing against Texas was one of his rougher ones of the season, giving up six runs on 11 hits, striking out three, walking two, and giving up three long balls when forced into action after a long rain delay. Not expecting to pitch that day likely did a number on Williams’ pre-game routine, and he hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a start since. His control has been a bit of a concern, issuing as many walks (seven) as strikeouts in his last two starts, but he remains a solid pitcher for this club giving strong, even performances every time out.

Colby Lewis had a bit of a downturn in the month of May. After starting out 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA in April, he’s gone just 1-3 in May, losing three straight decisions to start the month, and watched his ERA climb to 3.58. He got roughed up a bit in his last outing, giving up four runs on 10 hits, striking out six and walking none while laboring through just 5.1 innings against Toronto. He’s allowed fourteen home runs this season, second in the league only to the Angels’ Ervin Santana, and has given up four or more runs in four of his last five starts. He’ll need to regain his April form as he goes up against a hot-hitting Angels club.

June 2: C.J. Wilson (6-4, 2.77 ERA) vs Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.25 ERA)

With Jered Weaver on the shelf, the Angels will look to C.J. Wilson to step up as their ace of the staff. He’s been very good all year, allowing more than three runs in only one of his 11 starts, in his shortened appearance against Texas the last time he was matched up with his Texas replacement, Yu Darvish. He came back the next day to start back-to-back games and was much better, allowing just two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks in 5.2 innings. His last start against Seattle was an excellent showing, giving up one run on just two hits, striking out five and walking two, but had to leave after 6.0 innings with a blister on his throwing hand. Despite a bumpy May, Wilson is still posting impressive number, posting a 2.77 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 8.17 K/9IP for his new team.

Yu Darvish got signed during the offseason as the prized foreign prospect of the year. He hasn’t disappointed as he’s been strong in the Rangers rotation, though he’s seen some bumps in the road during May. During April, Darvish was 4-0 with an ERA down around 2.18, but has gone 3-2 over the last month and seen his ERA swell up to 3.25 (which is still excellent). He’s also been hurt by the long ball a bit more, giving up four home runs in May after allowing just one in all of April. Darvish has struggled to get deep into games over his last two starts, pitching just nine innings against the Mariners and Blue Jays. In his last start against Toronto, Darvish went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits, including a home run, while striking out three and walking three. After the start, Darvish complained of some back stiffness, which caused the Rangers to list him as “day-to-day” but the team reported no problems during his between-starts bullpen session on Wednesday.

June 3: Dan Haren (Dan Haren 3-5, 3.52 ERA) vs Matt Harrison (6-3, 4.41 ERA)

After a four-game losing streak, Dan Haren is enjoying a very nice run of dominance. Over his last two starts, he’s allowed one run on 12 hits, striking out 21 and walking none over 16 innings of work. This is the form that the Angels expected Haren to be in from the start of the season, but he’s seen his season get set back by early season bullpen issues, inconsistent offense, and then by a minor injury when he suffered some stiffness in his lower back. All of those issues seem to be behind Haren and the Angels, so we should continue to see some strong starts from the Halos co-ace.

Harrison was the lone Rangers starter to come out of the Seattle series without a terrible start. He’s won his last two starts (both against the Mariners), but is just 3-3 over his last six decisions. His last loss came against the Angels in Texas, where he allowed four funs on four hits, including a home run, over 6.0 innings, striking out five and walking a pair. There is some question about how deep he gets into games, having lasted past six innings in just half of his starts this season. He’s shown that he can be extremely hittable this season and can be susceptible to giving up early offense.

Storylines to Watch

The Angels have become one of the hottest teams in baseball, winning eight of their last nine games and cutting deep into the Rangers division lead. Is the turnaround for real and are the Angels ready to make their move in the AL West? We’ll get to see first hand in this series as the Angels finally look like they’re ready to be the team that everyone expected coming out of Spring Training.

The Rangers have enjoyed a quick start to 2012, sporting the top offense in all of baseball. Josh Hamilton has been an early season MVP candidate and is putting up mind-boggling numbers from the plate. However, after giving up 31 runs in two games against the Mariners, there are questions about the Rangers pitching that could be a hiccup in their defense of the AL West crown.

Season Implications

The Angels are poised to make the AL West race a race once again if they can continue to eat into the Rangers lead. After spending almost two months in the cellar, the Angels have finally solidified themselves into second place in the West and can take a big bite into the Rangers confidence if they can win two or three from Texas in this series.

The Rangers have run the AL West for the past two seasons, and don’t look ready to just hand over control to someone else. They’ve stumbled a bit recently, most notably in that 21-8 pummeling they received at the hands of the soft-hitting Mariners, but can reclaim their dominance of the division with a strong showing against their chief rival for the West. Taking the series against Los Angeles would give the Rangers some much-appreciated breathing room atop to the standings.

The Hangout View

This is not the same Angels team that went to Texas in early-May. That team was still unsure of itself offensively, and kind of muddled about as they dropped two of three. Now, the starters are sharp (outside of Santana who the Angels won’t have to send to the hill in this one), the bullpen is solid, and the offense is showing they can put up runs consistently for the first time all season (they’ve scored three runs or more in nine straight games). The Angels have momentum coming into this series and take two of three from Texas, tightening the AL West race just a little bit more.