Angels Vs. Athletics Series Preview: Wild Card Race Heats Up
Shohei Ohtani, 2021 Season
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels have a real chance to make up significant ground in the wild card race, but will have to go through a familiar foe to do it. Without most of their top offensive options, the Angels will take on the Oakland Athletics in one of the most important four-game sets of the season.

Only one game of this series will occur before the MLB Trade Deadline, meaning the Angels must make their decisions based on that individual game. A win on Thursday could bolster the team’s buying chances, while a bad loss could lean them towards sellers.

The Angels are 5.0 games back of the Athletics, and must leapfrog four teams just to get to them, putting L.A. in a precarious situation. Four wins would pull them within one game, but that’s an extremely tall order given the Halos’ performances against Oakland this season.

Athletics Preview

As the Angels struggle to figure out what they should do at the deadline, the Athletics already made their splash. They bolstered a relatively inefficient offense by adding electric outfielder Starling Marte from the Miami Marlins. While they paid a hefty price tag in the form of pitcher Jesus Luzardo, there’s no doubt that this will help them this season and beyond.

Athletics pitching remains their strong suit, especially against the Angels. When these two teams met in a two-game set earlier this month, the Angels scored just one run total. A repeat performance like that would spell doom for their season. All five Athletics starters have ERA’s below 4.50, a luxury that very few teams have.

Offense is a different story for the A’s. Prior to the Marte trade, Matt Olson led the Athletics with a .285 batting average. Despite being a relatively disciplined team at the plate, they rely on the home run ball to produce their offense. Now, with a .306/.407/.452 player in Marte, they have a true star that they can turn to when they need someone on base.

Marte has not yet been activated to the A’s roster, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens and he’s ready to go against the Angels.

Angels Preview

Up to now, this is by far the most important series of the Angels season. Four games can determine a lot, as the Angels could finish the series anywhere from one game back of the Athletics to nine games back.

Sadly, they’ll have to do this entire series without Jared Walsh, Mike Trout, and Anthony Rendon, who are all on the IL. In addition, Alex Cobb — who was scheduled to make a start in the series opener on Thursday — has been replaced by Dylan Bundy due to a blister.

Perhaps reinforcements in the form of trades could come during this series, but the Angels absolutely cannot depend on that. It will be up to a relatively depleted roster to overcome their struggles against the Athletics to put them back near the top of the postseason picture.

Angels (51-50) vs. Athletics (57-46)

Angel Stadium, Anaheim, California

Game 1: Thursday, July 29, 6:38 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 2: Friday, July 30, 6:38 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 3: Saturday, July 31, 1:05 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West, FS1
Game 4: Sunday, August 1, 1:07 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Dylan Bundy (1-7, 6.69 ERA) vs. Frankie Montas (8-8, 4.34 ERA)
Patrick Sandoval (3-4, 3.52 ERA) vs. Chris Bassitt (10-3, 3.46 ERA)
Jaime Barria (1-0, 6.23 ERA) vs. Cole Irvin (7-9, 3.62 ERA)
Shohei Ohtani (5-1, 3.04 ERA) vs. James Kaprielian (5-4, 3.24 ERA)

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