The Los Angeles Angels are over .500 once again after taking care of the lowly Texas Rangers in a four-game set. Now, they’ll have their work cut out for them to stay above .500 as they head to Chavez Ravine to face the ultra-talented L.A. Dodgers in a three-game Freeway Series.
While the Angels sit six games back of the second wild card spot, the Dodgers may be even more motivated to grab some wins, as they are four games back of the lead in the front-loaded National League West division. They are tied for baseball’s second-best record, but remain chasing the MLB-leading San Francisco Giants.
For the Angels to have success, they need to put aside their struggled against above-.500 teams, and lean on their dramatically improved pitching staff to stifle baseball’s deepest lineup.
The Angels were small-scale sellers at the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Dodgers made the biggest splash in the league, acquiring Max Scherzer and Trae Turner from the Washington Nationals for a collection of top prospects. With Scherzer having made his Dodgers debut on Wednesday, the Angels will avoid seeing him during this series.
They likely won’t have the same luck with Turner, who manager Dave Roberts is hoping will make his debut on Saturday. Even then, the Dodgers still won’t be at full strength, as they wait for Clayton Kershaw to return from a lengthy IL stint.
This is perhaps what makes the Dodgers the most scary as an opponent. Offensively, they rank 12th in batting average, fifth in OPS, fifth in home runs, and second in total runs. All of this while Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, AJ Pollock, and Mookie Betts have all missed significant time.
Their pitching staff is even better, as they rank first in ERA and WHIP, and rank second in opponent batting average and strikeouts. They did this with Kershaw on the mend and Trevor Bauer out for most of the season as he faces criminal investigations. At one point, they essentially had three starting pitchers.
Everything above is to say that the Angels have their work cut out for them during the Freeway Series. Their three starters — Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, and Reid Detmers — are 24, 25, and 22 respectively. Joe Maddon sees this as a glimpse into the future, but that inexperience could be trouble against the Dodgers’ lineup this weekend.
Offensively, the Angels are going to again have to cope without their top stars. Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon will, of course, be out. Jared Walsh could be activated by Friday, but there has not been much certainty to suggest that will happen.
And because this series takes place in a National League park, they will not have the designated hitter at their disposal, meaning Shohei Ohtani could be limited to just pinch-hit at-bats.
This puts a lot of weight on the shoulders of David Fletcher, Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, Phil Gosselin, and Justin Upton, among others. If the Angels want to hover at .500, they need to go at least 1-2. A 2-1 or 3-0 showing could put them multiple games above .500 and even get them back on the cusp of playoff contention.
Angels (55-54) vs. Dodgers (65-44)
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
Probable Pitching Matchups: