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Red Sox at Angels Series Preview

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A look ahead to this weekend’s series in L.A.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Los Angeles Angels Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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Halos Heaven

The opponent in one sentence

The Angels have fallen below .500 largely thanks to an anemic offense that was missing the best player in the world for a large chunk of the season.

Record

47-50

Head-to-Head Record

Angels 2, Red Sox 1

Trend

Down. It’s been a rough month of July for the Angels, a team that was surprisingly hanging around the wild card race despite missing Mike Trout for weeks. Since the calendar has changed, though, Los Angeles has won just five of their last 13 games and they haven’t won a series since they visited Fenway in a series that started on June 23.

Pitching Matchups

7/21: Chris Sale vs. Ricky Nolasco, 10:07 PM ET

Friday is Sale Day, the best day of the week. Chris Sale was originally supposed to start on Thursday, but the team sent Doug Fister to the move instead in order to get their ace (and the pitchers behind him) an extra day of rest. Fister certainly wasn’t great, but if this move makes it more likely that Sale is Sale for the rest of the year and brings more consistency from the other pitchers on the staff, the move was worth it.

MLB: All-Star Game Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last couple of seasons, Nolasco had been a quietly solid pitcher despite a lack of dominant stuff. When he’s at his best, he can locate pitches and induce weak contact all night. That hasn’t been the case this year. Although he’s bumped his strikeout rate up to 7.6 per nine innings, he’s walking more batters than he has over any full season in his career and has allowed a whopping 26 home runs over 108 innings. Nolasco features a fastball, sinker, slider and splitter.

7/22: David Price vs. J.C. Ramirez, 9:07 PM ET

After beginning the season on the disabled list and underperforming after returning, Price has been stellar over his last few outings. In his three outings since the start of July, he’s allowed runs in only one of them and has pitched to a 0.90 ERA in 20 innings of work. He also has 22 strikeouts to just four walks while allowing a .554 OPS in that time. Price has faced the Angels once this season and allowed three runs (only two of them were earned) on five strikeouts and one walk in Sox innings. Despite the solid outing, he still took the loss.

Ramirez is in his first season as a major-league starter, and things have gone....okay. He’s made 18 starts on the season and has pitched to a 4.54 ERA with a 4.66 FIP and a 4.17 DRA. He’s average-at-best in every area of the game, though he does induce ground balls over 50 percent of the time. Despite the ground ball rate, he allows far too many home runs. Ramirez had a great outing at Fenway in June, allowing just one run in six innings on five strikeouts and no walks.

7/23: Rick Porcello vs. Parker Bridwell, 3:37 PM ET

Porcello, like Price, has underperformed for the majority of this season but has been better of late. He hasn’t been quite as effective as Price, but he’s still been improved. Over 20 13 innings in three starts since the start of July the righty has pitched to a 2.21 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks. He got a win against the Angels earlier in the year, although he allowed four runs in six innings of work.

Old Friends

Andrew Bailey, if you’ll recall, was acquired to be a major piece of the Red Sox bullpen prior to the 2012 season as part of a trade that sent Josh Reddick to Oakland. Things did not work out with the Red Sox, and he left after two lackluster seasons here. Since then, he has never really recovered and has bounced around the majors, pitching for the Yankees, Phillies and now the Angels. He’s missed almost this entire season with shoulder inflammation, but Los Angeles is hoping to get him back within the next few weeks.

Texas Rangers v Boston Red Sox Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Notable Hitters

Mike Trout, as I may have mentioned, is the best player in the world. He missed about six weeks with a thumb injury earlier in the year but returned just after the All-Star break. The injury caused him to miss the previous series against the Red Sox. When he has played, he’s been unsurprisingly incredible. He’s hitting .335/.454/.731 in 227 plate appearances. By wRC+, he has been a whopping 107 percent better than the league-average hitter. He’s going to be trouble for the Red Sox this weekend.

Albert Pujols is one of the greatest players of all-time and a sure-fire, inner-circle Hall of Famer. He is no longer that player, though, and while he can run into some home runs now and again that’s about all he does at the plate these days.

Andrelton Simmons is arguably the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball, and he’s been quite good with the bat this year as well. Finally combining his contact skills with success on balls in play have made him and above-average hitter and one of the more quietly valuable players in the league.

Yunel Escobar is very similar to Simmons, at least at the plate. He doesn’t hit for a ton of power or draw a ton of walks but he puts his contact skills to good enough use to be above-average at the plate.

Kole Calhoun has seen a dropoff in power this year as well as overall quality of contact. After years of being underrated the plate, he’s having his first below-average year at the plate.

Martin Maldonado has been quietly good behind the plate for the Angels this year with solid pop and decent contact skills.

Luis Valbuena had broken out over the last few years with the Astros, but he’s been atrocious this year thanks to taking a step back in just about every area.

Bullpen Snapshot

Bud Norris took over the Angels’ closer role after injury after injury in their bullpen. The former failed starter has wildly outperformed expectations and is striking out more than 11 batters per nine innings. He has a 2.35 ERA on the season.

Cam Bedrosian has been hurt for a chunk of this year, but he’s still probably the best long-term arm in this bullpen. He’s allowing a ton of fly balls this year, but has also improved his control mightily when he’s pitched in 2017.

David Hernandez has been really strong as a setup man for the Angels this year after some rough seasons in Philadelphia thanks to improved command and a better ballpark.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Blake Parker has been elite this season with the rare combination of strikeouts, control and the ability to induce ground balls.

Jose Alvarez is the lone lefty in the Angels’ bullpen and he’s not a reliable option due to some major home run issues.

Injuries

Garrett Richards is one of many members of the Angels rotation on the shelf, and he was supposed to be the ace of the staff. He’s made only one start in 2017 and he probably won’t be back until the very end of the year if he makes it back at all.

Andrew Heaney has been out since last summer after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he just started a rehab assignment and could possibly be back in the Angels rotation about a month.

Matt Shoemaker was supposed to be back in the Angels rotation by now, but he suffered a setback with his forearm injury and it’s now unclear when he’s going to return.

Tyler Skaggs looked much improved to start the year but has been out since April with an oblique injury. He hopes to return soon.

Nick Tropeano underwent Tommy John surgery last year and will miss this entire season.

Cameron Maybin has been decent in the Angles outfield this season but is out for about a month with a knee sprain.

Huston Street is the team’s longtime closer but has been on and off the disabled list for a couple years now. It’s unclear when he’ll return.

Bailey is also on the disabled list, as discussed above.

Weather Forecast

As always seems to be the case in Southern California, the weather should be outstanding this weekend.