The Los Angeles Angels have had extreme difficulty with the teams atop the AL West standings. Namely, the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros. After being swept by the Athletics over the weekend, they shift to the Astros in their final four-game set of the season.
The Angels are 9-25 against the Astros and Athletics combined. However, prior to the weekend sweep, they have usually fared better at home. The Astros have a clear runway to win the AL West, but the Angels are still looking to play spoiler while developing their younger players.
A series against a high caliber divisional opponent is a perfect learning opportunity for a team just trying to figure out their identity for 2022.
There’s a reason the Astros have a comfortable 6.0-game lead atop the AL West with 13 games left. They figure to be one of the most complete teams in baseball, and certainly the American League.
Offensively, they lead baseball in multiple categories, ranking top three in batting average, OPS, and runs scored. They also strike out less than anyone in MLB, showing high quality at-bats throughout their lineup. They pitch well too, ranking in the top seven in ERA, WHIP, and OBA.
While they are led by Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yordan Alvarez, this is as deep of a team as any in the AL. Of the nine players who have taken at least 300 at-bats this season, seven have an OPS above .800.
They’ve also made improvements throughout the season in their bullpen while seeing leaps from young starting pitchers. The Angels certainly have their work cut out for them against a team that could find themselves in the World Series for the third time in five seasons.
The Angels — after winning a series against the Chicago White Sox — were hoping to hover at or above .500 for the rest of the season. However, being swept by the Athletics certainly makes that a difficult task. They are five games below .500 with 13 left.
To finish .500, the Angels would need to go 9-4. However, 10 of their final 13 games are against teams above .500. They also will not have any of their most promising starting pitchers against the Astros.
With Shohei Ohtani and Jose Suarez taking the mound against Oakland, it will be a slate of much younger players — and veteran Alex Cobb — on the hill this series. Among those are Packy Naughton and Janson Junk, who have noth impressed at various times in the past month of action.
Angels (72-77) vs. Astros (88-61)
Game 1: Monday, September 20, 6:38 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 2: Tuesday, September 21, 6:38 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 3: Wednesday, September 22, 6:38 p.m. PT, ESPN+, Bally Sports West
Game 4: Thursday, September 23, 6:38 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Jaime Barria (2-3, 4.93 ERA) vs. Framber Valdez (10-5, 3.26 ERA)
Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) vs. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA)
Janson Junk (0-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. Luis Garcia (11-7, 3.37 ERA)
Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA)