The Los Angeles Angels have been given the honor of playing in the fourth annual MLB Little League Classic, and will face off with the Cleveland Indians in Williamsport, PA for their series finale of a three-game set.
Playing for a significant number of future MLB hopefuls may give both teams added motivation, as playoff hopes dwindle for the Angels and Indians. Both teams remain hovering around .500 and sit over 10 games back in their respective divisions.
For the rest of the year, both teams are looking ahead to 2022 while simply playing for the love of baseball, something that should be reaffirmed during Sunday’s neutral site game at the Little League World Series.
The Indians have been relatively disappointing during the 2021 season. Featuring a talented offensive core of Jose Ramirez, Amed Rosario, Cesar Hernandez, Franmil Reyes, and others, they have not mustered the numbers expected of them.
As a team, the Indians rank 27th in batting average, 22nd in OPS, and 20th in runs scored. Ramirez’s .874 OPS — his second worst since 2017 — is shockingly the best on his team, giving insight into some worrying offensive trends.
Their pitching staff — which came into the season looking like one of baseball’s best — has been underwhelming. Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Triston McKenzie haven’t looked quite the same as they did in 2020, while Aaron Civale has emerged as perhaps the best starter in their rotation.
The Indians rank 19th in ERA, 15th in WHIP, and 13th in opponent batting average, with Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, and Bryan Shaw doing plenty of heavy lifting at the back end of their bullpen.
Coming off a historic eight-run comeback win, the Angels managed to secure a road sweep of the Detroit Tigers. Manager Joe Maddon had said that this road trip would serve as an incredible test for the team’s young players, and their first series proved that to be right.
But a road trip’s success is not determined in the first series. They have six more games away from Anaheim, and need to keep their momentum going. With the playoffs essentially out of reach, it’s up to the Angels clubhouse to find internal motivation to go out and win each and every night.
On Thursday, their offense finally broke through after a couple of mediocre weeks. 13 runs is an impressive feat on any night, but especially when trailing 10-2 heading into the sixth inning. How a team responds after a game like this, however, is just as revealing as the game itself.
The Angels are 4-5 with an average of five runs per game in the day after scoring 10 or more runs. Against the Indians — who average 4.36 runs per game — that could be enough.
Angels (62-61) vs. Indians (58-61)
Progressive Field, Cleveland, Ohio
BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, Williamsport, Pennsylvania
Game 3: Sunday, August 22, 4:00 p.m. PT, ESPN
Probable Pitching Matchups: