LA Angels series preview: How will Halos respond against Blue Jays?

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

Through six games in the regular season the Angels (4-2) have looked better than most predicted. Their offense has ranked among the league’s best, but there are still a few questions regarding their pitching. After facing two elite teams in the White Sox and Astros, the Halos should have the advantage in a four-game series against the Blue Jays (3-3).

Toronto enters Thursday’s matchup winning two of three road games against the Yankees, but dropped their last two contests against an underwhelming Rangers squad. This is a Blue Jays team that is knocking on the door in becoming a legitimate World Series contender, featuring one of the most exciting core groups in baseball.

The big names include the trio of former big leaguers: Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. All three players finished with a combined average OPS of .813 en route to a 32-28 record and a trip to the AL Wild Card Series in 2020.

As well as the former top prospects played last summer, Toronto’s biggest X-factor proved to be outfielder Teoscar Hernandez. The 28-year-old finished 11th in the AL MVP voting after finishing with 16 home runs and 34 RBI in 50 games last season. Hernandez and his other teammates are off to a slow start offensively in 2021, even with the addition of slugging infielder Marcus Semien. Toronto also added high-prized free agent George Springer, but the outfielder has yet to make his debut and will likely miss this series with a quad injury.

Guerrero Jr. and Randal Grichuk are the only players with a batting average above .250 with at least ten plate appearances.

Angels pitching needs to take advantage of a slumping Blue Jays offense.

The Blue Jays currently sit in the bottom-10 of many offensive categories where they finished towards the top last season.

Blue Jays Offensive MLB ranks (2020 vs 2021):

  • Runs: 2020 (302-7th) vs 2021 (20-22nd)
  • Hits: 2020 (516-10th) vs 2021 (43-19th)
  • Home Runs: 2020 (88-8th) vs 2021 (9-7th)
  • OPS (.766-11th) vs 2021 (.647-19th)

Projected Lineups (2021 Stats):

  • Marcus Semien-DH (.316/.458/.526) 3 HR 5 RBI
  • Cavan Biggio-3B (.136/.240/.273) 1 HR 1 RBI
  • Bo Bichette-SS (.250/.280/.542) 2 HR 2 RBI
  • Teoscar Hernandez-RF (.208/.208/.333) 1 HR 1 RBI
  • Vlad Guerrero Jr.-1B (.316/.458/.526) 0 HR 1 RBI
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr.-LF (.200/.200/.200) 0 HR 0 RBI
  • Randal Grichuk-CF (.400/.478/.600) 1 HR 5 RBI
  • Joe Panik-2B (.333/.333/.333) 0 HR 0 RBI
  • Danny Jansen-C (.182/.308/.273) 0 HR 0 RBI

As you can tell by their stats, this team has done a majority of their run scoring via home run. With runners in scoring position the Blue Jays have a .186 batting average (8-for-43).

Projected Pitching Matchups

  • Game 1 (Thursday @4:07pm PT): RHP Canning vs RHP Stripling
  • Game 2 (Friday @4:07pm PT) LHP Heaney vs RHP Zeuch
  • Game 3 (Saturday @4:07pm PT) RHP Cobb vs LHP Matz
  • Game 4 (Sunday @10:07pm PT) RHP Ohtani vs RHP Roark

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The two starters to key an eye on this series will be Griffin Canning and Andrew Heaney.

Making his 2021 debut on Thursday, I believe Canning will be the X-factor in the Angels rotation this season. He’s still considered a bit of a work in progress, but this will be a great opportunity to take the next steps in his development as a big-league starter.

The start for Heaney could be his last if things don’t go well. He lasted just three innings and allowed 7 earned runs in his first start against Chicago. If the Halos are serious about winning this season, they cannot afford to have Heaney struggle every fifth or sixth day. At this point in his career, he’s only got so many chances left before the team decides to move on.

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The struggles of the Blue Jays offense comes at the right time for the Angels pitching staff. The Halos could use a few dominant outings, and now is the time to take advantage.