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Red Sox vs. Angels Series Preview

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A look to the weekend matchup against two of the league’s marquee players.

MLB: APR 12 Angels at Royals Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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Halos Heaven

The opponent in one sentence

The Angels have two of the biggest stars in baseball, but they continue to struggle translating that into wins as a league-worst pitching staff is holding them below .500.

Record

16-20

Head-to-head record

0-0

Trend

Neutral. The Angels have been a little bit better of late after releasing Albert Pujols and giving Jared Walsh a little bit of a bigger role. They have lost their last two, but before that they won three of four. Of course, immediately before that they lost five in a row, so it’s been more down than up if you expand the sample a bit.

Pitching Matchups

5/14: Nick Pivetta vs. Griffin Canning, 7:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

Of all of the surprises on the Red Sox roster so far this year, Pivetta has to top the list. The righty hadn’t looked for a major-league quality starter for the last few years, never mind a good major-league starter. This year, however, the results at least have been phenomenal as the righty is pitching to a 3.19 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning. The issue is that he’s also walking more than five per nine innings, a rate that seems unsustainable alongside the good results. I would point out that he is missing more barrels which may be a tradeoff that is worth it, but limiting the walks at least a bit more will be necessary to keep up something resembling this run. Pivetta is also looking to continue a win streak that has lasted three starts heading into this one.

Canning has had an encouraging start to his big-league career, putting up solid seasons in each of the last two years, albeit amid some injury issues and not in full seasons. The start to his 2021 has been a bit rougher. Through five starts plus one relief appearance, he’s pitching to a 5.19 ERA. The righty is missing a ton of bats so expect to see some strikeouts on Friday, but command has been an issue as he’s giving up a ton of home runs. That said, he’s not really giving up too much hard contact, so there’s a chance there is some regression in a positive direction heading his way. To that end, he’s allowed just one earned run (two runs total) over his last two innings, so don’t be fooled by the ERA. Canning will throw a mid-90s fastball along with a slider, a changeup, and the occasional curveball.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

5/15: Martín Pérez vs. Dylan Bundy, 4:10 PM ET

Pérez is settling in to be exactly what the team needs him to be, which is a guy who will take the ball every five days and keep the team in games. He hit a bit of a snag in the back half of April, but his first two starts in May have been good as he’s pitched at least five innings in each. He probably should have gone deeper in his last outing against the Orioles, but the Red Sox have a plan with him and they are sticking to it. Over his last two starts he’s allowed three earned runs (four total) with 10 strikeouts and three walks. This will be a bit more of a test against this Angels lineup, but he’s been trending in the right direction at the moment.

After a strong season in the shortened 2020 campaign, Bundy appeared to be just the latest Orioles castoff to thrive in a rotation somewhere else. This year has taken that talk down a bit, though, as the righty has an ERA over 5.00 to start off the 2021 schedule. As with Canning, though, the results may not be reflective of his actual talent this year and there looks like there should be a decent chance he turns it around. None of his peripherals stand out as great on their own, but they’re all at least solid-to-good, and his FIP a run and a half better than the ERA. That said, he got roughed up by the Dodgers his last time out, allowing six runs without getting through the fourth. Bundy will feature a low-90s fastball to go with a slider, changeup, curveball, and sinker.

5/16: Nathan Eovaldi vs. José Quintana, 1:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

Eovaldi came into his last start against the A’s struggling a but, having been hit around some in three of his previous four outings. He’s still yet to allow a homer this year, which is incredible given the offensive environment around the league, but the hits added up in those starts and got his ERA on the rise. But earlier this week he reeled it in with a one-run performance against the A’s to get him back on track. There’s a lot of power in this Angels lineup so the homer-less streak may be in jeopardy, but he’s more concerned about the wins than the homers.

Quintana was a popular free agent target for some Red Sox fans last winter, including me. He looked like a relatively safe option, though one without a ton of upside. It’s been a disaster of a season for the lefty, though. His ERA currently sits at an even 9.00, and while he's missing way more bats than ever before he’s also walking pretty close to one batter per inning. He’s also getting hit very hard when he doesn’t get the strikeout, which is a tough road to success. The veteran was a bit better his last time out with just one run allowed, but he also walked five over four innings of work. Quintana will throw a low-90s fastball along with a curveball, a sinker and a changeup.

Old Friends

José Iglesias came up around the same time as Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and the Red Sox wisely chose Bogaerts, sending Iglesias out in the trade that brought Jake Peavy to Boston in 2013. Iglesias has put together a solid career, though, keeping his head above water at the plate while playing all-world defense at shortstop.

Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Angels
Jose Iglesias
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Noé Ramirez had spent a few years as an up-and-down reliever in Boston before being claimed off waivers by the Angels. He spent a very brief amount of time with the Reds before getting back to LA.

Notable Position Players

Mike Trout is simply the best player in baseball and one of the very best to ever play. And somehow, he just keeps getting better as this may be his best season yet. So far this season he’s hitting .355/.477/.673 for a bananas 216 wRC+. He’s ridiculous, and there are no words to do his talent justice.

Shohei Ohtani is not going to pitch this weekend, but we’ll see him at the plate. His still an incredible hitter with some of the best power in all of baseball, boasting a .316 Isolated Power (SLG - AVG) so far this season. He does get a bit aggressive at times, though, so look for the Red Sox to try and get him to swing at some bad pitches.

Jared Walsh has taken on a bigger role this year after a breakout in 2020, and he is the owner of a strong 171 wRC+ thanks to big power numbers and good patience.

David Fletcher is a throwback player, as he doesn’t walk a ton and has virtually no power, but he puts everything in play, and often for hits.

Justin Upton isn’t the hitter he once was and will strikeout a bit more than you want, but he can also punish mistakes every time he enters the box.

Iglesias is struggling at the plate this year after a strong 2020, as the quality of contact just hasn’t been there.

Taylor Ward hasn’t played much this year but when he has he’s been hitting for power.

Jose Rojas is struggling a little in just about every area, which in combination leads to a rough overall line.

Drew Butera has done most of the catching recently, though he doesn’t provide much offense. Kurt Suzuki should get some time behind the plate as well.

Bullpen Snapshot

Raisel Iglesias came to LA essentially for free this winter (they traded Ramirez, who as noted above is now back with the Angels), but he’s struggled a bit in the closer role as the home run ball has bitten him a few too many times early in the year.

Mike Mayers has been good out of the setup role, though he’s been bitten by the homer bug as well.

Tony Watson has a minuscule ERA below 1.00, but he isn’t doing it the traditional way as he’s hardly missing any bats.

Injuries

Anthony Rendon has been on the injured list dealing with a little bit of a knee issue, but he could end up being back for this series which would be a big addition to this Angels lineup.

Alex Cobb hit the IL with some bliser issues earlier this month, and while he won’t pitch this weekend he should be back soon.

Junior Guerra strained his groin earlier this week and his schedule to return is still unclear.

Max Stassi is dealing with some concussion issues but he could be back this weekend to take over the catching duties.

Dexter Fowler tore his ACL early in the season and will miss the rest of the year.

Franklin Barreto has been dealing with an arm issue since spring and now he’s just recently undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Luke Bard is going to be out for the entire season after undergoing hip surgery.

Chris Rodriguez recently suffered a shoulder injury, but the tests have come back looking okay so he shouldn’t miss too much time.

Weather Forecast

It should be an interesting weekend weather-wise, as there are some showers forecasted around game time for all three games, but it doesn’t look like it’ll be enough to cause cancellations. There may be some annoying showers here and there and perhaps a delay or two, but I think they’ll get all three games in.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.