The Los Angeles Angels are currently on a 14-4 run, resulting in them picking up five games in the AL West (in just three weeks!) and putting them within spitting distance of the Texas Rangers at the top of the division. Their southern California counterparts, the Los Angeles Dodgers, haven't had to make up ground. They've been in first place all year, and possess the best record in baseball with a 39-22 mark. But despite the Dodgers sizzling start to the season, the Angels seem to possess the advantage right now, with Dodgers superstar outfielder Matt Kemp out with a strained hamstring.
One other break that the Angels will get in this series; they get the back-end of the Dodgers rotation. The Halos won't have to face reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw or the remarkably consistent Chad Billingsley. Instead, the Angels get a pair of veterans (Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang) and rookie Nate Eovaldi, who has just 53 1/3 career innings under his belt. The Angels on the other hand, won't be sending Dan Haren to the hill this series, and ace Jered Weaver is still out. Rookie Garrett Richards, journeyman Jerome Williams, and high-priced free agent CJ Wilson will go to the hill for the Angels.
Capuano, who had a fantastic start to the year, has faltered in his last two starts (though those starts came in Denver and Philadelphia, two extreme hitters parks). He's pitched just 10 1/3 innings, allowing eight earned runs, four homers, five walks, and eight strikeouts. However, this start will be at Dodger Stadium, where Capuano has a 1.36 ERA in five starts this year, striking out 32 and walking only eight. The same advantage provided to Capuano will also be given to the rookie Richards, who went seven innings while allowing one run in his only start of the year against the Mariners. Richards isn't used to throwing in pitchers parks, considering he spent the majority of his season in the run-happy environment that is the Pacific Coast League. Game two will pit Aaron Harang against Jerome Williams. Harang has been consistent, though unimpressive, this year. He started off poorly in April, but has rebounded over his last seven starts to be at least adequate. Williams is very similar to Harang in the fact that he's also been solid, but hasn't been dynamic. His last start against the Mariners was just his third of the season that wasn't a quality start, though.
Game three is the interesting matchup, pitting red hot veteran Wilson against the still wet behind the ears Eovaldi. In Wilson's last four starts, he's thrown 28 innings, allowed just two runs, walked eight, and struck out 26. That hot streak has resulted in his ERA dropping by a run to 2.39, the lowest it's been since early April. Eovaldi has made three starts this year, and despite not getting a win in any of them, has been impressive. In his 18 2/3 innings, Eovaldi has struck out 14 and walked seven. His numbers aren't the best, but when you consider that two of those starts were on the road (one of which was in Colorado), it's a little more acceptable.
Offensively, it's been a chore for the Dodgers since Kemp went on the DL again. The team has just a .665 OPS in June with a total of four homers in ten games. The team's plate discipline has wavered, walking just 37 times to 82 strikeouts. A .242/.319/.345 line just isn't going to get it done, especially when seven of the ten games the Dodgers have played this month were in Denver and Philly. However, despite the Dodgers overall offensive deficiency, they're still scoring runs: 47, to be exact. Even with Andre Ethier lost at the plate this month (.477 OPS), the Dodgers are beating teams by singling them to death. Only 24 extra base hits in ten games is not a good look long-term, though.
The Angels on the other hand, have turned into the offensive juggernaut that many expected coming into the year. The Halos have an .848 OPS in June, and have homered 13 times. Outfielders Mike Trout and Torii Hunter have done a fantastic job setting the table for the team, with both players having OPSes above 1.100. Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo have destroyed teams in the middle of LA's order, combining for 13 extra base hits this month. It's been a crazy run for the Angels, and they did something the Dodgers couldn't do: put a ton of runs on the board at Coors Field (28 in three games, compared to the Dodgers' 11 in three games).
Despite the Dodgers struggles on offense relative to the Angels, the Dodgers are 7-3 this month, compared to 6-3 for the Angels. The Dodgers' +20 run differential is better than the Angels +13, and the Dodgers haven't even had a home game this month. It almost defies logic. At any rate, I think their hot month slows a little bit when they run into the buzzsaw of a team from Orange County. I'll predict that the Angels win the final two games of the series, and give the Dodgers a run for their money in game one depending on how Richards pitches.
Photos courtesy of Daylife.com
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