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Series Preview: Red Sox vs. Angels

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A look ahead to the three-game set against the Angels.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Angels Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Halos Heaven

The Opponent in one sentence

The Angels have the best player in the world on their roster but are once again middling around .500 due to injuries and inconsistencies from basically everyone outside of Mike Trout.

Record

41-38

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 3, Angels 0

Trend

Down. The Angels got off to a nice start to their season but haven’t been the same since then. They’ve had a particularly rough time of late, failing to win their last four series. Overall, they are 4-10 in their 14 games, and they have lost their last three.

Pitching Matchups

6/26: David Price vs. John Lamb, 7:10 PM ET

Chris Sale has, justifiably, gotten the headlines in the Red Sox rotation of late, but Price is acting as a more-than-serviceable number two. His last outing was his least impressive since May 3, and even then he allowed only three runs in six innings of work. His command wasn’t quite as spot-on as it had been and the strikeout stuff wasn’t there, but he still found a way to limit the damage. Price continues to be mostly fastball/cutter right now, but in his last outing he showed a willingness to turn to his changeup when his primary pitches aren’t quite doing the job. The lefty faced the Angels when these two teams met out west in April and he allowed just one run in five innings, though he did walk four batters while allowing three hits and racking up six strikeouts.

Lamb was once the number 11 prospect in baseball on Baseball America’s top-100, but his career hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. The lefty has bounced around multiple different teams in the last few years and signed with the Angels before the season. After a solid run at Triple-A, Lamb has made two lackluster major-league starts this year. Overall he has a 5.40 ERA in just 8 13 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. The big issue for Lamb, both this season and over his entire career, has been the long ball. Obviously, the Red Sox have had major issues against lefties this year so how the top of the order handles Lamb will be telling. The southpaw features a low-90s fastball along with a cutter and a changeup.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Minnesota Twins Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

6/27: Rick Porcello vs. Andrew Heaney, 7:10 PM ET

It’s been a bit of an up-and-down year for Porcello, but he’s ultimately been up much more often than he’s been down. The 2016 Cy Young winner is also coming off perhaps his best start of the year in which he allowed just one hit to the Twins over seven shutout innings. Overall, he has an ERA of just 3.44 and he’s made it through six full innings in all but three of his 16 starts to begin the season. He had a great outing against the Angels earlier this season when he tossed six shutout innings on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks.

Heaney has always had potential but he’s battled injury issues throughout his career. The lefty has finally been (mostly) healthy this season and is showing how good he can be. Although he’s certainly not an ace, he has pitched to a solid 3.43 ERA this season with a 3.55 FIP that indicates he has not gotten lucky. However, Baseball Prospectus’ DRA is less impressed and they actually have him very slightly worse than league-average after accounting for park factors. That being said, between Boston’s aforementioned struggles against lefties and the fact that Heaney has a sub-3.00 ERA over his last eight starts, this could be a tough night for the lineup. He is a three-pitch pitcher with a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a curveball and a changeup.

6/28: Steven Wright vs. Jaime Barria, 7:00 PM ET

For the most part, Wright has been outstanding since being reinstated after his domestic abuse suspension to begin the season. The knuckleballer started out in the bullpen and was good there after shaking off a little rust, and his first few appearances in the rotation were outstanding. Then, against the Mariners this past weekend, he struggled mightily. It was clear from the get-go that he did not have it but he was kept in long enough to allow ten runs. As OOLf wrote earlier this week it’s far too early to talk about potential replacements in the rotation, but it’s a nice reminder that Wright was never going to be perfect. How he comes back from that outing will be interesting to see.

Barria is a 21-year-old rookie and also the only righty starter the Red Sox will see in this series. He’s put up impressive results in his first taste of the majors with a 3.40 ERA, but the peripherals don’t back it up. He’s not horrible in any of the three true outcomes (strikeouts, walks and home runs), but he’s not great in any one either. All told, he has a 4.79 FIP and a 4.90 DRA that indicates there’s some regression coming if he continues to pitch like this. He’s been mostly good this month with just one rough outing, though only judging by the box scores it appears he’s been aided by at least some luck in each of his strong outings in June. The young righty features a low-to-mid-90s fastball along with a slider and a changeup.

Old Friends

Chris Young was a huge piece on the 2016 Red Sox before being a frustrating piece of the 2017 roster. All in all I’d say he earned his cheap two-year contract in Boston, but his last impression was not great. He went out and signed with the Angels this year and has served in the same platoon role, and the results are even worse than they were last year.

MLB: ALDS-Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Noe Ramirez was the classic reliever-with-options for the Red Sox over the last few years. He was designated for assignment last year and landed with the Angels, where he has served as a surprisingly solid middle reliever.

Dayan Diaz is a former Red Sox minor leaguer but as far as I can tell he hasn’t pitched all year due to visa issues.

Notable Position Players

Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and has gotten off to perhaps the best start to a career in baseball history while somehow still getting better every year. I could talk about him for hours, but really all there is to say is that he’s elite at pretty much everything and an absolute joy to watch. He’s been stuck as a DH over the last week or so due to injury, but he should be back in the field soon.

Justin Upton is the second best bat in the Angels lineup and shouldn’t be too overshadowed by Trout’s greatness. Upton will strikeout a bunch and it hurts his batting average, but he makes up for that and then some with impressive patience and big power.

Ian Kinsler was once an elite second baseman in this game but he appears to be nearing the end of the line. He’s suffering from some major BABIP deficiencies this year, but it’s hard to say if that’s just bad luck or an aging player who doesn’t hit the ball as well as consistently anymore. Probably a little of both.

Albert Pujols is a future first-ballot, inner-circle Hall of Famer, but he’s just not someone to be feared anymore. His last remaining skill is putting the ball in play all the time.

Andrelton Simmons is the best defensive shortstop in the game with elite contact skills. As his offensive game has grown in the last two years he’s turned himself into perhaps the most underrated player in baseball.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Luis Valbuena has struggled on the long side of a platoon this year with a huge strikeout rate and a low walk rate to boot.

Kole Calhoun has been among the worst hitters in baseball this year with his consistently awful contact that has brought down his BABIP and his power.

Martin Maldonado won the Gold Glove behind the plate last year and has a high floor based on catcher defense, but his offense is simply fine for the position rather than being anything too impressive.

Bullpen Snapshot

Blake Parker is the closest thing the Angels have to a true closer, though he’s suffered through inconsistencies. He has legitimate strikeout stuff, but he also loses command from time to time which leads to runs in important spots.

Justin Anderson has come somewhat out of nowhere to play a big role in the Angels bullpen this year, though he has major control issues that take away from his swing-and-miss stuff.

Cam Bedrosian was expected to emerge as the Angels closer this year, but instead he’s taken a major step back and has been worse than his 3.53 ERA would indicate.

Jose Alvarez is the top lefty in the Angels bullpen and has quietly been very good in that role for a few years now. He’ll be a tough matchup late in games.

Injuries

Shohei Ohtani’s injury was a huge bummer to baseball fans across the league, though he still may be able to return at some point this year. His elbow injury could also keep him out all year, too. Either way, many people bought tickets to this series to see Ohtani, and now they’ll have to just settle for Trout and Mookie Betts being on the same field.

Garrett Richards is the most talented non-Ohtani pitcher for the Angels, but he can never stay healthy. He’s currently down with a hamstring injury, but he could be set for a rehab outing soon and return shortly after this series.

Zack Cozart was a free agent signing this winter but he’s been out for about ten days with a shoulder injury. The timetable for his return is unclear.

Keynan Middleton had emerged as the Angels’ best reliever this year, but then he went down with a torn UCL in May and will miss the rest of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Jim Johnson has also served as a late-inning reliever but he’s been out for ten days with a back injury. His timetable for return is also unclear.

Nick Tropeano is another pitcher, this time a starter, out for the last ten days or so. He’s down with a shoulder injury, though it doesn’t appear to be majorly serious.

Blake Wood went down with a torn UCL in May and underwent Tommy John surgery. He’ll miss the rest of the year.

Matt Shoemaker is another injured Angels starter and he underwent surgery for a forearm injury at the start of June. He will be out for the rest of the season.

Jefry Marte was a bench piece for Los Angeles but he’s out for an unknown amount of time due to a wrist sprain suffered a couple of weeks ago.

Rene Rivera is a backup catcher who underwent knee surgery at the end of May and will be out until at least the end of July.

J.C. Ramirez is yet another Angels pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the year.

Alex Meyer is, you guessed it, another Angels pitcher who is out for the year. His ailment is in the shoulder rather than the elbow.

Weather Forecast

The first two games of this series should be nice, warm and sunny. Thursday looks a little shakier with thunderstorms in the forecast. They should be over by the time the game starts, but wet conditions may not be ideal for Steven Wright.