The Angels just took two out of three games from a floundering Blue Jays team, outscoring Toronto by 10 runs over the last 10 innings of the series. Now they will move onto New York, where they will square off against the Yankees, one of the top teams in the sport.
Here’s a look at the series, by the numbers.
Head to Head
Their series win in Toronto improved the Angels’ record to 28-22. The team remains in third place in the American League West, 4.5 games behind the Astros and 1.5 games behind the Mariners, who hold the second Wild Card spot. The Yankees just lost two out of three games in a slugfest series against the Rangers in which they scored 24 runs and gave up 23. New York’s 31-15 record is the second-best in baseball and in their division, as they sit a game behind the league-leading Red Sox in the AL East.
The Angels and Yankees met once already this year, when New York swept the Angels in Anaheim at the end of last month. An 11-1 blowout was sandwiched in between two one-run games. Two of the starting pitching match ups in this series will be the same as last, with the Yankees’ Luis Severino facing the Angels’ Andrew Heaney, who struck out nine and gave up one run in five innings last time, in the first game and New York’s Masahiro Tanaka squaring off with the Angels’ Garrett Richards, who the Yankees tagged for nine runs in 1 2/3 innings in April, on Sunday.
Here’s how the Angels and Yankees look heading into their second meeting of 2018:
With power hitters Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez backed up by guys like Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Gleyber Torres, the Yankees have arguably the deepest lineup in the majors, and it’s no surprise that they have scored more runs than any other team. Although the Angels have a good offense, the Yankees are in another class. Their pitching staffs are roughly equal, with New York possessing a lesser starting rotation and better bullpen.
New York’s Starting Pitchers
In his first full season as a member of the Yankees’ starting rotation last year, Severino, who starts on Friday, posted a 2.98 ERA and struck out 230 batters in 193 1/3 frames, and he’s been even better in 2018. Thus far, he has a 2.35 ERA, 1.95 FIP, and the 11th-best strikeout rate among starting pitchers. Only three pitchers have accumulated more Wins Above Replacement.
In his April start against the Angels, the 24-year-old permitted three runs across six innings, punched out eight batters, and walked one. Severino has an electric 98-mph fastball that he counterbalances with a slider and a changeup, both of which can touch 90 mph. This is the “off-speed” stuff that the Angels will have to contend with:
On Saturday, the Angels will face a familiar foe in Sonny Gray. The right-hander spent the first five-plus seasons of his career with the Oakland A’s before being dealt to New York last July. From 2013-2015, Gray was one of the better pitchers in baseball in terms of pure run prevention, posting a 2.88 ERA, but he has since declined considerably.
This year, he is walking more batters and getting hit harder than he ever has, leading to, at 5.48, one of the highest ERA marks in the majors. Despite the ugly ERA, Gray has gone six or more innings and surrendered two or fewer runs in three of his last four starts. For what it’s worth, he also has a 1.76 ERA in 30 2/3 innings at Angel Stadium.
And on Sunday, the Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound. Tanaka signed with the Yankees for big money in 2014, after rising to stardom in Japan. Over his first three years with the Yankees, Tanaka posted a 3.12 ERA and 3.53 FIP while holding opposing batters to a .230/.267/.390 line. But since 2017, his ERA is close to five, and his opponents’ OPS has increased by nearly 100 points.
In his first start against the Angels this year, he held them to one run over six innings and struck out nine batters. In his four starts since, he has allowed at least three earned runs and lasted longer than 5 1/3 innings just once. Tanaka is the only starter who throws more splitters than Shohei Ohtani. Batters are hitting just .207 against Tanaka’s splitter this year, and more than half of his strikeouts have come on the pitch.
Trouble at the Top
In a 12-game stretch from May 11-23, the top four hitters in the Angels’ lineup combined to bat .182 with seven extra-base hits, and the team averaged just 2.8 runs per game. Yesterday, they went 6-for-19 (.316) with a double and two home runs, and the Angels pushed across eight runs. The Angels will need the top of their lineup to produce this weekend if they intend to keep up with the Yankees high-powered offense because the bottom of the lineup–Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart, Luis Valbuena, and others–is not providing much help at the moment.
Two of the Best
Didi Gregorius was the talk of Major League Baseball in April, when he hit an absurd .327/.421/.735 (198 wRC+, where 100 is average) with 10 home runs. But in May, he has been one of baseball’s worst players. He has only one home run this month, and he’s hitting .130/.167/.217 (-6 wRC+) in 16 games.
Gregorius is neither the best player nor the worst player in the baseball. In reality, his true talent is somewhere in between his April and May performances and much closer to his April output. A poor month aside, Gregorius is one of the game’s premier shortstops, and he will be matching up with another in Andrelton Simmons. Here’s how their production compares thus far:
In the first meeting between these two teams, Gregorius went 3-for-12 with a double and a home run while Simmons only played in two of the games, going 2-for-8 with a triple.
But Can He…
…get on base? Yes, Mike Trout can. Trout is hitting just .156 since May 12, but he is getting on base at a .438 clip in that span, thanks to a league-leading 33.3% walk rate. Only 12 players with at least 40 plate appearances during that stretch have a lower batting average, but only 13 players have a higher on-base percentage.
News & Notes
Ohtani was originally slated to start Sunday’s game against Tanaka, the last star pitcher to make the move from Japan to the United States before Ohtani, but the Angels pushed his start back. Ohtani is fine physically, and the Angels say that this is just a move to help manage his innings and keep the 23-year-old healthy. On the bright side, the Angels will get to have Ohtani’s bat in the lineup all weekend.
The Angels have yet to announce Saturday’s starter, but it appears that Jaime Barria will make his sixth career start that day. He pitched 2 2/3 frames on Sunday in Triple-A, and he last appeared in the majors on May 15, when he held the Astros to one run in seven innings.
Reliever Blake Wood, who was on the disabled list and in the middle of a rehab assignment, was diagnosed with a “damaged ulnar collateral ligament.” This sort of injury usually denotes Tommy John surgery, but there are alternatives such as the stem-cell therapy that Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney underwent a couple of years ago. If Wood does have Tommy John surgery, he will join J.C. Ramirez and Keynan Middleton as the third Angels pitcher to do so this season.
The Angels promoted a slew of minor-league players earlier this week, including top prospects Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Matt Thaiss. Adell and Marsh joined fellow top prospect Jahmai Jones at High-A Inland Empire while Thaiss moved up to Triple-A Salt-Lake.
The biggest knock on Thaiss coming into this year was that he did not hit for enough power to be a productive big-league first baseman. In 2018, however, he has started lifting the ball more, upping his 2017 fly ball percentage by nearly 15% and increasing his slugging percentage from .388 to .490 in the process. Now one step away from the majors, don’t be surprised to see the 23-year-old with the Angels in the near future if a need presents itself.
The Angels also released infielder Ryan Schimpf, who was hitting .178/.288/.355 in Triple-A, and traded first baseman Chris Carter to the Twins for cash considerations a couple of days ago. Although Carter was hitting well in Triple-A, the Angels don’t have an immediate need for him, and trading him clears the way for Thaiss at first base.
When & Where to Watch
Friday May 25, 2018 (Heaney vs. Severino): 4:05 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Saturday May 26, 2018 (Barria vs. Gray): 4:15 PM PT, FOX
Sunday May 27, 2018 (Richards vs. Tanaka): 10:05 AM PT, FOX Sports West
The Angels have yet to lose a road series this year, and this weekend may present the toughest challenge to that fact yet. In April, the Angels proved that they are capable of hanging with the Yankees, though, dropping two tough-luck, low-scoring games. If their pitching staff can keep New York’s hitters in check like they (mostly) did in April, the series just might shift in the Angels’ favor.
Featured image via Ian D’Andrea/Flickr.