With a 5-1 homestand behind them, the Angels will head to Minnesota to face the Twins, one of last season’s Wild Card teams.
Here’s a look at the series, by the numbers.
Head to Head
The Angels won two out of three against the Rangers and then swept the Royals to improve to 35-28 on the season. They remain in third place in the American League West and are 4.5 games back of the first-place Mariners, who have a one-game lead on the Astros. The Astros currently hold the second Wild Card spot, and the Angels are 3.5 games behind them. They have separated themselves a bit from the fourth-place Athletics, opening up a three-game lead on Oakland.
After winning three out of four against the first-place Indians, the twins split a four-game series with the White Sox. In third place in the AL Central, the Twins are now 27-32 and 4.5 games back of Cleveland. The Angels and Twins met in a tightly-contested four-game series last month in which each team won a pair of games. The Angels outscored Minnesota by a single run in that series.
Here’s how the two teams match up heading into their final meeting of the season:
Coming into the season, the Twins were expected to be Wild Card contenders, just as they were last year. However, they are only on the periphery of the postseason race, which has a lot to do with a couple of their young players–Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano–turning in disappointing seasons thus far. Buxton, who has dealt with a series of ailments this season and is currently on the disabled list, is hitting .156/.183/.200 (-3 wRC+, where 100 is average) and has racked up -0.3 Wins Above Replacement. The power-hitting Sano has only seven home runs and is striking out 39.9% of the time, one of the highest rates in the majors.
Although, the Twins have managed to remain relevant thanks in part to a couple of standout performances from Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario, who have combined to hit 26 homers. They are not a bad team and, when playing to their potential, are close to the Angels in terms of talent. However, Minnesota has simply not lived up to expectations in 2018.
Minnesota’s Starting Pitchers
On Friday, Lance Lynn will start for the Twins. Lynn, who has been a useful if unspectacular pitcher throughout his career, was one of the casualties of the winter’s frozen free-agent market and ended up signing a one-year deal late in the offseason. In 11 starts this year, Lynn has a 5.46 ERA.
Home runs have not been the problem for Lynn as they were last year. Instead, his 14.7% walk rate is even higher than the career high he set last year and the second-highest mark in the majors. Additionally, right-handed batters are hitting .290/.400/.473 against him, an on-base-plus-slugging percentage that is close to that of Colorado star Charlie Blackmon. He has better recently, however, as he has allowed only three runs in his last 18 2/3 frames. When Lynn faced the Angels in May, he threw 99 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, permitting four runs on eight hits.
The Angels will square off with Kyle Gibson, who owns a 3.54 ERA in 12 starts this season, on Saturday. Gibson, who the Twins drafted three picks before the Angels took Mike Trout, has a solid 25.5% strikeout rate, though he does have an elevated 10.5% walk rate. He has allowed two runs in his last two starts, covering 12 2/3 frames. In his first start against the Angels this year, he walked four and struck out six across six two-run innings.
In the series finale, the Twins will send fireballing rookie Fernando Romero to the mound. The 23-year-old has a four-pitch arsenal. He throws his four-seam fastball, sinker, and slider around 30% of the time each and backs that trio up with a changeup. Both his four-seamer and sinker average about 96 mph, but his 91-mph changeup and 87-mph slider have been his most successful pitches. Here’s what his slider looks like, for instance:
And here’s his changeup:
Romero has gone at least five innings and given up three or fewer runs in six of his seven starts. Against the Angels earlier this year, he held them to one run in five innings while striking out six and walking three.
What’s Up With J-Up?
Justin Upton ended last month mired in a terrible slump. In his final 13 games of May, he hit just .136/.296/.159 (45 wRC+) with no home runs and one double. He has been a totally different hitter in June, however, batting a scorching .476/.522/.905 (292 wRC+) with three homers. For what it’s worth, the Angels averaged only 3.73 runs per game during that stretch in May and have averaged 4.17 in June.
Starting to Dominate
Since the beginning of May, Angels starting pitchers own a 2.61 ERA, the best mark in the AL. On the season, the Angels have five pitchers–Jaime Barria (2.48), Shohei Ohtani (3.10), Andrew Heaney (3.12), Garrett Richards (3.25), and Tyler Skaggs (3.27)–in the top 20 in ERA among AL starting pitchers (minimum 30 innings pitched). No other team has more than three.
News & Notes
Ohtani left Wednesday’s start with a blister issue and today, the Angels placed him on the 10-day DL with a grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He underwent treatment–a PRP and stem-cell injection–for it on Thursday and will be reevaluated in three weeks. Last winter, it was reported that Ohtani had a grade 1 sprain of his UCL and underwent the appropriate treatment at the time, which means that it has since worsened. Tommy John surgery is a possibility but not a guarantee.
Andrelton Simmons was also placed on the 10-day DL this week due to a sprained right ankle. He hopes to miss no more than the required 10 days. Kaleb Cowart was called up to replace Simmons on the roster and will share third base duties with Luis Valbuena and Jefry Marte in the meantime with Zack Cozart pivoting to his natural shortstop position.
UPDATE: It turns out that Cowart also sprained his ankle and was placed on the 10-day DL. Nolan Fontana was called up to replace him. In addition, the Angels called up Jose Miguel Fernandez to take Ohtani’s roster spot. Fernandez is an infielder who was hitting .345/.412/.562 in Triple-A this year.
When & Where to Watch
Friday June 8, 2018 (Richards vs. Lynn): 5:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Saturday June 9, 2018 (Skaggs vs. Gibson): 11:10 AM PT, FOX Sports West
Sunday June 10, 2018 (Tropeano vs. Romero): 11:10 AM PT, FOX Sports West
The Twins are the fourth straight sub-.500 team that the Angels will face. After this, the team will head to Seattle to square off with the division-leading Mariners, so it is imperative that the Angels take advantage of a losing team for the third consecutive series.
Featured image via MLB.com.