LA Angels Opening Series Preview: Angels @ A’s (3/28/19)
By Ryan Falla
The LA Angels will be Opening the season with a four game stretch in Oakland that will see Trevor Cahill receive the nod for an Opening Day start.
As solid as the LA Angels looked in Spring Training there are still some lingering question marks waiting to be resolved. Is the starting pitching going to be as solid as we need it to be? When will Justin Upton return to the field? Is the Angels depth strong enough to cover a rash of injuries?
It’s 2013 all over again, at least in the outfield. The Angels Opening Day roster will see Angels fan favorite Peter Bourjos roaming the outfield next to Mike Trout until Justin Upton makes his return from “turf toe”.
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As much as it pains us to lose the potential offense from Upton we will still be suited nicely with phenomenal defense from Bourjos and on top of that his bat has looked pretty good in Spring Training as well. Bourjos saw 58 Plate Appearances this Spring and slashed a line of .283/.345/.574 with 3 Doubles, 3 HR’s and a Triple.
Plugging Bourjos into the lineup won’t cost the Angels much production to open the season and if he can continue carrying his hot bat the Angels won’t be missing Upton much at all. In fact Upton is the least of our concerns as there is the questionable pitching staff that will be debuting against the A’s to open the season. It would be nice to see the Angels start the season off on a strong footing and see the starters put up quality innings but unfortunately that isn’t something we can count on.
The opportunity to field a productive and competent starting staff is still there; Trevor Cahill is coming off a solid season, Matt Harvey is eyeing a serious comeback, Tyler Skaggs is looking to record a career year and Felix Pena is coming off a Spring that saw him strike out 25 over 14.2 IP. The recipe for success is there, we just have to wait and see if the Angels can turn the bad taste of a questionable starting staff into something that is actually palatable.
Angels @ Athletics (3/28/19)
(3/28) -1:07 PM PT @ FSW: Trevor Cahill (0-0, -.– ERA) vs Mike Fiers (0-1, 14.50 ERA)
(3/29) – 7:07 PM PT @ FSW: Matt Harvey (0-0, -.– ERA) vs Marco Estrada (0-0, 5.40 ERA)
(3/30) – 6:07 PM PT @ KCOP: Felix Pena (0-0, -.– ERA) vs TBD
(3/31) – 1:07 PM PT @ FSW: Tyler Skaggs (0-0, -.– ERA) vs TBD
The matchups here don’t look particularly overwhelming on either side, what really makes this series such an unpredictable stretch is the unknown factor of the top two starters for LA.
Trevor Cahill had an awful Spring despite coming off a very solid 2018 season (3.76 ERA in 110 IP) and as an Opening Day starter there isn’t much pizzazz behind him.
He’s not someone who is expected to light the A’s up, in fact what’s being expected of him is just 5 quality innings that can be smoothly handed over to the bullpen. Given that it’s Opening Day you would like to see Cahill cleave up 6-7 innings and not tax the bullpen coming out of the gate, but fans do need to brace themselves for a short start and a long bullpen outing.
That’s not to say that the Angels won’t be able to give Cahill all the run support he needs during this start. The A’s pitcher on the Opening Day bump, Mike Fiers, pitched against the Mariners in last weeks wonky season opener in Tokyo.
Fiers was shelled for five runs in three innings in that start and the potential for the Angels offense to bite him just as hard is very tangible. The Angels lineup is going to need to be more focused towards small ball play instead of the big hit as it has been in seasons past however; Upton’s power bat will be missing and Shohei Ohtani isn’t expected back until May so the Angels will have to make due off the power bat of Mike Trout until then.
The A’s are putting Marco Estrada on the bump for Game 2 against Matt Harvey, a matchup of unknowns if I’ve ever seen one. Not that they’re unknown players at all, just that no one really knows what to expect from them going into 2019. Estrada has dealt with physical injury and discomfort that last two years which the A’s fully believe he has overcome.
Estrada himself acknowledges that he pitched through discomforts in 2018 and is looking to return to his All-Star 2016. He is at 35 years of age so we can’t for sure say that he is returning to a younger form, but it would also be foolish to believe he is over the hill as well. You never want to underestimate your opponent.
That being said, I do believe Matt Harvey is looking for a breakout game in his first start of the season and likewise shouldn’t be underestimated. Harvey has said time and time again this Spring that he sees the Angels as a fresh start for his career, a new beginning to say the least.
Harvey doesn’t have to worry about moving past failures or previous troubles with the Angels, he is pitching on a completely blank slate and he knows it. He’s back with the team that drafted him and has expressed to the media that he feels this full-circle is almost like a new career for him.
Felix Pena has had an astronomical Spring after putting up an average 2018 with the Angels (4.18 ERA in 92.2 IP). Expectations should be tempered going into the season, but after watching him strike out 25 in 14.2 Spring innings there is a lot of optimism surrounding his 2019 season.
Pena looked more dominant than he has at any point in his career; he’s taken a completely different approach to utilizing his repertoire and is seeing massive amounts of success so far. We don’t want to try counting on him to continue the dominant numbers he put up in Spring, but if it’s any indication as to where he is trending value wise we may be in store for a big upswing of a season for Pena.
Closing out the series is the Angels top lefty starter Tyler Skaggs who pitched a career high 125.1 IP in 2018. Skaggs is another Angel looking for a big breakthrough season as his talents and performance haven’t always matched up.
Skaggs has the tools to be much more than a 4.02 ERA pitcher (2018) but it will take a different utilization of his talents to reach a new career plateau. With the proper guidance and conditioning we could be in line for the best season from Skaggs yet and we’d be inclined to think he could deliver based on the more progressive, player-friendly coaching surrounding him.
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It’s not just Skaggs that will benefit from the player-friendly coaching, but at the same time he has the most potential out of any Angels starter to really blossom this season. As good as he may be in his first start of the season what we really need to see out of him is a deep start, especially if the Angels falter all throughout the series leading up to his start. The best we can hope for is strong series leading up to the fourth game so Skaggs won’t have the pressure of preserving the bullpen to deal with or any other unnecessary hang-ups.
The story of this series is pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The Angels need to offer their best looks off the mound to kick off the season, not just for the sake of wins, but for the sake of confidence going into the season. Everyone on the Angels squad believes themselves to be a sleeper team primed for a big come-up of a season, lets just hope they don’t sleep through the Opening Series of the 2019 MLB season.