After splitting a six-game homestand and dropping a makeup game in Kansas City, the Angels are moving on to Boston to face the Red Sox.
Here’s a look at the series, by the numbers.
Head to Head
Losers of 10 of their last 14 games, the Angels are now 41-38 on the season. They are 11 games behind the division-leading Astros and seven games back of the Mariners, who are in second place in the American League West and currently hold the second Wild Card spot. The Athletics have also drawn even with the Angels in the standings.
At 52-27, the Red Sox, who just took three out of four games against Seattle, are a half of a game behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East and own the second-best record in the majors. The Angels and Red Sox met in mid-April, and Boston dominated the series, outscoring the Angels 27-3 in a three-game sweep.
Here’s how the two teams match up heading into their final meeting of the season.
That series in April was the first one that the Angels lost this year and was perhaps a sign of things to come. They entered it with a 13-3 record, and, since the first game of that series, they are 28-34. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have maintained their position at the top of the sport. They had baseball’s best record at the time, and they have the third-best record since.
Bolstered by phenomenal seasons from Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, and others, Boston possesses one of the game’s top offenses. Despite the efforts of Chris Sale, the Red Sox’s starting staff has not been all that impressive, but, led by one of this generation’s best relievers, Craig Kimbrel, they’ve rolled out a relief corps that ranks sixth in the majors in ERA, third in FIP, and fifth in Wins Above Replacement. Simply put, as demonstrated by the April series, the Angels are outmatched by the Red Sox’s star-studded roster in almost every area, and the Angels will have to play their best baseball in order to keep pace with Boston in this series.
Boston’s Starting Pitchers
In game one, the Red Sox will send lefty David Price to the mound. The five-time All-Star owns a 3.81 ERA on the season. At his best, Price deployed a fastball-heavy attack, throwing few breaking and off-speed pitches. And with the 32-year-old’s velocity remaining relatively steady, he has kept the same approach this year; nearly 80% of his pitches are either sinkers, cutters, or four-seam fastballs.
Those pitches are still effective, too, with batters compiling just a .219 batting average and a .375 slugging percentage against them. Price is walking batters at his highest rate since 2010, but he has managed to keep his WHIP at a respectable 1.21, only slightly higher than his career mark. Overall, Price is still a formidable pitcher, even if he is no longer a perennial contender for the Cy Young award. In his lone start against the Angels this year, Price gave up one run on three hits in five innings, and he has posted a 2.86 ERA and averaged more than six frames per start since May 12.
Rick Porcello is scheduled to start the second game of the series for Boston. After winning the Cy Young award in 2016, Porcello regressed rather heavily last year. In 2018, however, the righty is, by some measures, having his best season yet. He has a 3.44 ERA and 3.23 FIP, and, by WAR, Porcello has been the 15th-best starter in baseball this year.
Porcello features five pitches, but he mostly sticks to his sinker, which helps him generate an above-average amount of ground balls, and slider, which batters are hitting just .155 against and whiffing on about a quarter of their swings at. Porcello tossed six scoreless innings, struck out six, and did not walk a batter in his first against the Angels this year. Additionally, he has surrendered two or fewer runs in four of his last five starts while working at least six innings in all five.
Steven Wright will start the series finale for Boston. Wright is the only active pitcher who throws a knuckle ball, and he does so on 88.3% of his pitches. He started the season as a reliever, but he was transitioned back into the starting rotation at the beginning of the month. Wright only gave up one run in his first three starts of the year, but the Mariners tagged him for 10 runs last week, which ballooned his ERA from 1.23 to 3.38.
Although Wright is walking batters at a career-high 12.1% rate, he is holding batters to a .208 batting average against his 75-mph knuckler. In addition to that pitch, he mixes in an 83-mph fastball and a 66-mph curveball once in a while. He has not appeared in a game against the Angels since 2016, when he gave up seven runs in 10 innings across two starts.
Curving Through Lefties
Heaney, Wednesday’s starter, has thrown 106 1/3 innings since 2016. In that time, he has thrown 137 curve balls to left-handed hitters, and not a single one has turned into a hit. This year, lefties are whiffing on 44% of their swings at his curve and three out of every four that they put in play are ground balls.
Boston’s left-handed hitters are batting .197 (22nd in MLB) and slugging .364 (15th in MLB) against curveballs this season. Against curves from left-handed pitchers, those same hitters are batting .171 and slugging .293, both of which rank 18th.
News & Notes
Shohei Ohtani is also making progress. Sidelined by an elbow injury, Ohtani “has been taking one-handed swings to keep his oblique and core muscles in tune with the rotation of a swing,” and “working out in the gym and running,” according to Mike Scioscia. On Friday, he stepped in the batter’s box while Felix Pena threw a scheduled bullpen session. He did not swing at any of Pena’s pitches, as it was simply an exercise to get Ohtani re-acclimated to seeing live pitching. He will be reevaluated on Thursday, June 28.
On Saturday, the Angels claimed reliever Hansel Robles off waivers from the Mets. Robles has made two appearances with the Angels thus far and has allowed a run in each. The Angels’ bullpen now ranks 15th in ERA (3.94), 25th in FIP (4.36), and 26th in WAR (0.3). Additionally, it has permitted the second-most home runs.
When & Where to Watch
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 (Lamb vs. Price): 4:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 (Heaney vs. Porcello): 4:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West
Thursday, June 28, 2018 (Barria vs. Wright): 4:10 PM PT, FOX Sports West and ESPN
The Angels will see few opponents better than this Red Sox team, and it will take an immaculate performance to avoid a second sweep. Not only is that possible, but, with Seattle presently playing a four-game series against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, it is also almost required if the Angels wish to stay relatively close to the Mariners in the standings.
Featured image via MLB.com.