SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Angels have the most exciting player the league has seen in decades, and perhaps ever, but they are still hovering around .500 as their other legendary player sits on the injured list.
Red Sox 2, Angels 1
Up. This series is the last of a run through the American League East for the Angels, and to this point it has gone well. They did drop two of three to Tampa, but that was followed by two of three over the Yankees and a three-game sweep of the Orioles. Overall, L.A. has won six of their last seven games.
7/5: Martín Pérez vs. José Suarez, 9:38 PM ET (ESPN for out-of-market)
After improbably serving as arguably the team’s best starting pitcher, Pérez hit a snag in the middle of June with two horrible starts. At that point, it looked like the southpaw was ready to fall back to Earth. That no longer appears to be the case, and it might be time to just say that Pérez is a good back-end starter, because he’s been just that for the better part of two half-seasons since joining the Red Sox. The southpaw is coming off a strong showing against the Royals, allowing just two runs over 5 2⁄3 innings, and he’s pitched to a 1.93 ERA over his last three starts. Pérez had one of his best starts of the season against the Angels back in May, tossing six shutout innings on three hits and four walks with five strikeouts.
Suarez, a 23-year-old lefty, made two starts as an opener last season, but has worked exclusively out of the bullpen so far this year. That said, he did come in and toss 5 1⁄3 innings in relief against the Yankees last weekend, allowing just one run on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts. He’s one of the best pitching prospects in this organization, as he showed off strong stuff in the lower levels of the minors and solid command throughout his time as a pro. As a reliever, Suarez has been leading with a fastball sitting in the low-to-mid-90s to go with a pair of good secondaries with his changeup and curveball.
7/6: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Shohei Ohtani, 9:38 PM ET
We get a matchup of All-Stars in this second game of the series, with Eovaldi taking the mound for the Red Sox side. The righty was named to the first All-Star Game of his career this past weekend, and it was well-deserved. Although he hasn’t been totally consistent all year, he's stepped up when needed and has served as the de facto ace of this Boston rotation. And Eovaldi has been particularly great since the first month of the season, pitching to a 2.61 ERA since the start of May, a stretch covering 10 starts. He did struggle his last time against the Angels, allowing four runs over five innings, but he’s coming off his best start of the season with seven shutout innings against the Royals.
The main attraction for Tuesday, with all due respect to Eovaldi, will be Ohtani. He is the star of baseball right now, and for good reason. We’ll get to his offense just a little bit later, but the two-way player has been tremendous in the Angels rotation as well, serving as the staff ace. Over 12 starts this season, the righty has pitched to a solid 3.60 ERA with some of the best strikeout stuff in all of baseball. That said, there are some control issues, as he’s walking over 13 percent of his opponents this season. Ohtani is also coming off his worst start of the season, not even making it through one inning in the Bronx against the Yankees. The Red Sox will look to give him another tough day in their first meeting with him on the mound this season. The MVP favorite will lean heavily on a mid-90s fastball while also mixing in a splitter, a slider, and a cutter.
7/7: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Andrew Heaney, 4:07 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
This has obviously been a very tough season for Rodriguez, but there are real signs right now that things could be turning around. The be fair to the lefty, he had been putting up very good peripherals, but the results just hadn’t followed. That’s not to say it was all bad luck, but it was certainly part of the equation. His last three starts have looked much better, however, pitching to a 2.50 ERA with 21 strikeouts and only three walks over 18 innings. On a recent podcast I named Rodriguez as the player I expected to turn things around compared to his first half, and so far he’s making me look smart. He has another opportunity to do just that in this series finale.
Early in his career with the Angels, Heaney looked like he could turn himself into a mid-rotation mainstay in Southern California for years to come. Unfortunately, he suffered some injuries in the next couple of seasons and has never gotten to that level again. This season, the southpaw is pitching to a 5.40 ERA, missing plenty of bats but suffering lapses in command that have led to plenty of hard contact and home runs. The Red Sox offense should be hunting mistakes, not waiting around but punishing him when the opportunity comes. He had been hitting a hot streak for his first few starts in June, but more recently he’s hit a rough patch, allowing 12 runs over nine innings in his last two starts. Boston will look to make it three in a row on Wednesday afternoon. Heaney will throw a low-90s fastball along with a changeup and a curveball.
José Iglesias was once one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization based mostly on his all-world defense at shortstop, but he had the misfortune of coming up at the same time as Xander Bogaerts and was traded to Detroit in 2013 in the deal that brought Jake Peavy to Boston.
Notable Position Players
Ohtani is starting one of these games, as we mentioned, and he should also make a few appearances at the plate. While he’s been a good pitcher, he’s been a great hitter with the most homers in baseball at 31. He will strike out a little bit more than you’d like, but that’s really the only flaw you’re going to find with his season.
Jared Walsh isn’t the most well-known player on this stars-and-scrubs roster, but he is the second All-Star coming out of Los Angeles. The first baseman is all about the power, hitting 20 homers on the season in the middle of this lineup.
Anthony Rendon has been on and off the injured list all year, and in fact was banged up a little on Sunday. When he has played, the plate discipline has been great but he’s struggled to hit the ball with much authority.
David Fletcher was a favorite for everyone who loves contact-oriented, old-school baseball, but he’s struggled this year as he’s just not getting on base enough to make up for his lack of power.
Iglesias is a defensive specialist, as noted above, but he’s a usable bat as well, typically coming in just a bit below league-average with a contact-oriented approach.
Max Stassi plays good defense behind the plate, and his typically non-existent offense has been impressive as well, thanks in large part to solid power and good batted ball luck.
Phil Gosselin is mostly a platoon bat who will play against left-handed pitchers, and he’s getting by with some extreme batted ball luck.
Taylor Ward is having a quietly solid season, doing well across the board without really standing out in any one area.
Juan Lagares is a glove-first outfielder who has provided almost nothing at the plate this season.
Raisel Iglesias has been perhaps the best reliever in baseball of late, working around some issues with the long ball to dominate the strike zone. He’s striking batters out, not walking anybody, and he’s going to be tough to beat if the Red Sox are trailing in the ninth.
Steve Cishek has done a wonderful job at keeping the ball in the yard, which has helped him work around his lackluster stuff for a solid season.
Mike Mayers does miss a ton of bats, but he also has lapses in control that have helped make his season more average than good.
Mike Trout has been out for most of the season, having suffered a severe calf strain in the middle of May. He’ll be back at some point, but the Red Sox will miss the best player in baseball for this series, and the Angels will likely be without him for most, if not all, of this month.
Justin Upton had some back issues that started creeping up at the end of June, and while it isn’t expected to be too long an absence Upton is out for now.
Dexter Fowler tore his ACL shortly after the season began, and he will be out for the entire season.
Franklin Barreto is an infielder who suffered an elbow injury in camp, and eventually he had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which will keep him out for the entire season.
Luke Bard suffered a hip injury before the season and he will be out for the entire season.
It’s Southern California. The weather is going to be perfect because it always is.