Welcome to another Weekend Preview!
After a long and relaxing All-Star break, the well-rested Red Sox find themselves a surprising 6.5 games out of first place in the dismal AL East. The Sox begin a crucial 17-game stretch, which, weather-permitting, will be the longest such run without an off day this year. The disappointing Red Sox were only able to send one @BrockStar4Lyf to the surprisingly entertaining All-Star festivities even though Xander Bogaerts surely had the credentials to be in attendance. Unfortunately Sox fans could not match the enthusiasm of the Kansas City voting machine and get the X-Man in on the final vote ballot. Alas, as Bill Belichick would say, “We’re on to Los Angeles!”
Los Angeles Angels – Current Record: 48-40 – Projected Record: 89-73
After taking two of three from the division-leading Houston Astros in late June, the Angels began to play incredible baseball. Over an 18-game stretch starting with that series, the Angels went 13-5, putting together four-game and five-game win streaks and by the All-Star break they had taken the division lead by half a game. The Angels possess a top-heavy lineup that has their two-through-four hitters Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols accounting for 62 of the team’s 97 home runs. Aside from that scary threesome the lineup lacks punch and has been succeeding thanks to a pitching staff that has been over-performing their peripherals all season. This opponent is vulnerable, and certainly more beatable than their record suggests.
Wade Miley vs. C.J. Wilson, Friday, 10:05 p.m.
In his last start before the break Miley was absolutely demolished by the Yankees, giving up six earned runs to their lefty-heavy lineup. That outcome was relatively surprising since Miley has a respectable .229 BAA vs LHB this season. The Angels field a very righty-heavy lineup, but despite that Miley fared well against the team in May, having arguably his best start of the year twirling eight innings of one-run ball while striking out two. Miley’s last start vs. the teams says he should perform well, but his performance vs. RHB this season says otherwise. Miley has proven this year to be like a box of chocolates: you never know what you are going to get.
On the Angels side the 34-year-old Wilson has been a bit of a surprise this year, posting a 3.83 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, the latter of which is his best mark since 2011. Last season Wilson was terrible and it looked like it might be curtains for him as a productive starter, but he’s been better in 2015. Wilson continues to be prone to the occasional blow up but has mostly given his team a chance to win. Last time versus the Sox he allowed four earned runs. In this matchup I give the slight advantage to the Sox.
Rick Porcello vs. Garrett Richards, Saturday, 10:05 p.m.
I am not sure if I could have any less confidence in a starter than I have in Porcello at this point in the season. With a 5.90 ERA, good enough for third worst in the league among qualified starters, his last “good” outing vs. Miami does little for me. Last time out vs. the Angels he gave up seven earned runs, and there is little reason beyond sheer probability for me to believe anything will be different this time out.
Richards has only given up four or more runs in three out of his 16 starts this year, but nonetheless he has not looked like his usual dominant self. Off-season knee surgery has perhaps hindered him, but the biggest difference seems to be his reluctance to throw the sinker much at all this year. His usage of the pitch has regressed from 28% to just 14% and as a result his four-seam, which has not lost velocity, has been getting hit much harder. I still like Richards infinitely more in this contest than I do the 82.5-million-dollar man.
Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Hector Santiago, Sunday, 8.00 p.m.
Get excited: the Red Sox will be appearing on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, all because America is itching to see Eddy Rodriguez take on Mike Trout! Oh wait, that’s just me. America clearly only cares about Trout but I won’t let that ruin my fun. The pitch-tipping young lefty will get his chance to test his stuff vs. two of the game’s best hitters in Trout and Albert Pujols and has the tools to give them fits. Rodriguez comes into the game with a .222 BAA vs RHB and a .174 BAA on the road. This matchup should give the nation a chance to see the Red Sox’s talented lefty more than hold his own.
If you would have told me before the season that Hector Santiago would have been at the 2015 All-Star game I would have asked you, “Oh yeah? How much did he pay for a ticket?” The season of the horseshoe and rabbit’s foot continues for Santiago, who brings an improbable 2.33 ERA into the game despite his 4.33xFIP. With a .244 BABIP and 88.9 LOB% I am betting that the Sox’s bats will find a way to score some runs.
With Collin Cowgill on the DL the Angels have no choice but to keep running Matt Joyce out there with his sub Mendoza line batting average. The defense also takes a hit from his presence in left field, and Aybar and Giavotella are not much more than slap hitters at this point. With the Angels having just 25 stolen bases on the year, good enough for second fewest, even when these weaker hitters do get on base there is not much risk of them running.
Johnny Giavotella – 2B – R
Kole Calhoun – RF – L
Mike Trout – CF – R
Albert Pujols – RF – R
Erick Aybar – SS – S
David Freese – 3B – R
C.J Cron – DH – R
Matt Joyce – LF – L
Carlos Perez – C – R
The name of the game will be pitching around Trout and Pujols and forcing the rest of the sub-par lineup to beat you. Overall this lineup ranks 16th in baseball in runs scored, 18th in team batting average, and tied with the Sox for 15th in slugging percentage. It is simply not a very dangerous lineup.
The nation, and most of Red Sox nation, will likely tune in this week if only to watch the incomparable Mike Trout in action. I do believe the Sox have a very good chance of taking two of the first three games in this set with Wade Miley and Eduardo Rodriguez facing off against pitchers with their fair share of warts. Overall the Red Sox lineup is deep enough to expose these flaws and should produce.
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