On Monday morning, the Angels will open the final series of a 10-game road trip. Through the first six games of this trip, the Angels have won three and lost three, winning two in Toronto and dropping two in New York. This series is of the four-game variety and will take place against the rebuilding Tigers.
Here’s a look at the series by the numbers.
Head to Head
Despite outscoring the Yankees by four runs in the series, the Angels managed to lose two out of three games, as they scored 11 runs in one game and one in each of the other two. They are now 29-24 and in the divisional race, they are in the same position as they were before the series: 4.5 games back of the Astros. However, the Mariners swept Minnesota, so the Angels now sit three games behind them for the second Wild Card spot.
The Tigers are coming off of a series win against the White Sox that improved their record a lowly 23-29, which is good for second-place in the weak American League Central. This will be the first time that the Angels and Tigers meet this year. In 2017, the Angels beat the Tigers in four out of their seven games. The Tigers team that the Angels faced last year was significantly different than the one they will face this week, though, as they played them before Detroit traded away some of its best players, including sending Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler to the Angels, and initiated its total tear down.
Here’s how the Angels and Tigers match up heading into their first meeting of the year:
The Angels hit better. The Angels pitch better. The Angels play better defense. They are just a significantly better all-around team than the Tigers. This is the difference between a team, the Angels, with a front office that is trying to win and a team, the Tigers, with one that is not trying to win. This is not to say that the Tigers don’t have anything going for them–they do–but this is not their year. Perhaps the one thing that the Tigers are good at right now is hitting lefties (9th in MLB), and the Angels have two lefty starters going in this series.
Detroit’s Starting Pitchers
The Angels will see left-hander Matthew Boyd on Monday morning. Boyd was one of the three pitchers that the Tigers acquired in exchange for star lefty David Price at the 2015 Trade Deadline. Boyd debuted in the majors that same year and had a shaky start to his career. However, he is off to a solid start in 2018.
Through nine starts and 52 frames, Boyd owns a 3.29 ERA and 3.43 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates are both slightly lower than average, and he does not throw hard. He is a fly-ball pitcher who has done a good job limiting his number of home runs allowed this year, cutting his home run rate in half thus far. This matchup could cause problems for the Angels, as they have been an average offense against left-handed pitching. Although, their fly-ball tendencies and ability to hit the long ball could counter Boyd’s strength.
The Angels will then face righty Michael Fulmer, who has been the Detroit’s ace since being acquired from the Mets in return for Yoenis Cespedes the day after the team traded for Boyd. Fulmer won the Rookie of the Year award in 2016, and he had a similarly good season in 2017. However, his results have taken a minor step back this year, with his ERA sitting at 4.08.
Both his strikeout and walk rates are at career-high marks, and Fulmer is getting hit significantly harder, with his hard-hit rate up 6.1% from its 2017 level. His 95-mph four-seam fastball has been dominant, as he has allowed just two hits and recorded a 38% whiff rate against the pitch. But his three other pitches–sinker, slider, and changeup–have seen their opponents’ slugging percentage jump significantly. Last season, the Angels saw Fulmer twice and tagged him for six runs in 11 1/3 innings.
In game three, the Angels will face Mike Fiers. The 32-year-old signed with the Tigers in the offseason and is having perhaps his worst season. His 4.78 ERA is lower than where it ended last year, but his 5.45 FIP is a career high, and his 15.2% strikeout rate is a career-low and one of the lowest in baseball. His velocity is also down, and only three starters are allowing home runs at a higher rate. Fiers faced the Angels three times in 2017 and allowed 11 earned runs in 16 innings.
The Tigers will send Francisco Liriano to the mound in the series finale. The 34-year-old will be the second lefty that the Angels face in this series, and he has not fared nearly as well as the first. Liriano has a 3.90 ERA and 4.96 FIP along with his lowest strikeout rate since 2011 and his highest walk rate since 2012. In addition, the velocity of his sinker–his number one pitch–is down about two mph since last year. Liriano pitched in five games (two starts) against the Angels last year and allowed seven earned runs in 12 1/3 innings.
The Angels’ probable starters for the four-game series look like this: Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano, Shohei Ohtani, and Andrew Heaney. Although the Angels have not confirmed that Ohtani will be pitching on Wednesday, that appears to be the most likely spot for him.
Trout’s Big Series in New York
In New York, Mike Trout went 6-for-11 with a couple of homers, including his first career five-hit game on Saturday night. Since his career-long 0-for-21 stretch, Trout is 11-for-28 (.393) with five home runs, four doubles, and 11 walks.
Trout is now up to 4.4 Wins Above Replacement on the season, the top mark in the majors. In 2017, only 25 players reached 4.5 WAR, and Trout is about to get there with more than 100 games remaining. By WAR, Babe Ruth holds the top four seasons of all-time, ranging from 15.0 to 13.0. If Trout recorded 685 plate appearances, the number that he averaged from 2012-2016, and kept up his current pace, he would finish the season with 12.9 WAR, which would be the fifth-best season ever.
While their offense has been inconsistent at times this month, the Angels’ starting rotation has not been. Angels starting pitchers have posted one of baseball’s best ERAs (2.45) in May while tossing the fourth-most innings. In April, they threw the second-fewest innings and posted a 5.06 ERA (24th in MLB). After facing the team that has scored the second-most runs in the AL this month in New York, Angels starters will face the team that has scored the second-fewest in Detroit.
News & Notes
It turns out that backup catcher Rene Rivera, who was placed on the disabled list early last week, tore the meniscus in his right knee. He underwent surgery on Friday, and he will be out for four to six weeks. Jose Briceno, Rivera’s replacement, went 2-for-4 with a walk and a home run in his major-league debut on Saturday.
When the Angels called up Jaime Barria from Triple-A to make Saturday’s start, they optioned outfielderMichael Hermosillo to Triple-A. Hermosillo started two games in right field and went 2-for-6 with a pair of doubles.
When & Where to Watch
Monday May 28, 2018 (Skaggs vs. Boyd): 10:10 AM PT, FOX Sports West
Tuesday May 29, 2018 (Tropeano vs. Fulmer): 4:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Wednesday May 30, 2018 (Ohtani vs. Fiers): 4:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Thursday May 31, 2018 (Heaney vs. Liriano): 10:10 AM PT, FOX Sports West
This will be the first of four consecutive series against sub-.500 teams for the Angels. After Detroit, they’ll face Texas and Kansas City before heading to Minnesota. If they intend on making the postseason, these are the stretches that the Angels need to take advantage of, especially considering that a tough run of games follows immediately after.
Featured image via MLB.com.