Angels Vs. Athletics Series Preview: Looking To Make Up Ground In Wild Card Race
Shohei Ohtani, 2021 Season
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels need to work quickly if they want to avoid becoming sellers at the July 30 trade deadline. They currently sit at 46-46, 5.5 games back of the second wild card spot. However, they’ll have a great opportunity to make up some ground in that race as they face the team currently holding that second wild card spot, the Oakland Athletics.

These two American League West rivals have met 10 times this season. Three of those games have taken place in Anaheim and the other seven in Oakland. The Angels’ record against this opponent is reflective of that, as they are 3-7 against Oakland this season. The Athletics have a total margin of victory of 51-34 during those 10 games.

Put simply, the Angels have not performed well against the Athletics this year. That will need to change if they plan on making up any of the 5.5 games that separates the two. In a two-game set, the Angels can close the gap to 3.5 if they manage a sweep.

The Angels are coming off back-to-back series losses against the Seattle Mariners on both sides of the All-Star break. Going 2-4 in a six-game span against a divisional opponent is unacceptable for a team that has not wavered from their goal of making the playoffs.

Team Preview

To defeat the Athletics, they’ll need some form of consistency from their pitching staff, which has become the main topic of conversation around the Angels organization. Joe Maddon and Perry Minasian have — on multiple occasions — stressed that pitching needs to be better in the second half. This is especially true of the starting pitching, which has ranked towards the bottom of numerous MLB statistics this season.

Halos pitching has been relatively poor against the Athletics, a team that is around league average at the plate. They rank 15th in runs, 21st in batting average, 15th in OPS, but eighth in home runs, meaning they like to live and die by the long ball. Despite averaging 4.38 runs per game this season, the Angels have given up 5.1 per game in their meetings.

Luckily, the Angels will get Shohei Ohtani and Jose Suarez, their two best pitchers by ERA, on the mound to start the two-game set.

Matt Olson carries the load of the Athletics offense, as he is just .004 OBP away from leading the team in all five main offensive categories (average, home runs, RBI’s, OBP, and slugging). Meanwhile, the strength of the Athletics lies in their pitching, a unit the Angels must do a better job in this series.

The Halos average 4.92 runs per game this season, but just 3.4 against the Athletics. Much of that has to do with their starters, all five of whom hold a sub-4.50 ERA and sub-1.30 WHIP. The A’s bullpen has their gems as well, with Lou Trivino, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekman leading the way.

Overall, the Angels have their work cut out for them during this short two-game set. If they can put their past struggles behind them, find a groove on the mound, and continue to do what they do offensively, they can win two games and put themselves squarely back in the Wild Card picture.

If they can’t, it might be time for the Angels to seriously consider selling at the deadline to look towards next season.

Angels (46-46) vs. Athletics (53-42)

Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, California

Game 1: Monday, July 19, 6:40 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 2: Tuesday, July 20, 12:37 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Shohei Ohtani (4-1, 3.49 ERA) vs. Cole Irvin (6-8, 3.65 ERA)
Jose Suarez (4-2, 2.29 ERA) vs. James Kaprielian (4-3, 2.90 ERA)

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