The Los Angeles Angels are no longer in legitimate playoff contention for 2021. However, they have a chance to play the spoiler role in a two-game inter-league set against the Wild Card hopeful San Diego Padres.
These two teams met just over one week ago, splitting a two-game series in Anaheim. Now, they’ll meet in San Diego with the Padres desperate for wins. They are the current owners of the second Wild Card spot in the National League, but have a measly one-game advantage over the lurking Cincinnati Reds.
As has been the case for several weeks now, there is little clarity as to who will start on the mound for the Angels in these two games. Packy Naughton is scheduled to go on Tuesday, but he’s had just five days of rest since his last start, which would be off-brand for the Halos this season.
Against a team like the Padres, there’s no telling if Joe Maddon would rather go to trusted veterans or challenge younger arms.
As stated above, the Padres need wins infinitely more than the Angels at this point. They hold a slim advantage in the Wild Card race, and even splitting this series could cost them in the long run. They’ll have Blake Snell and Yu Darvish as their starters in this series, both of whom have had a mixed bag of a season.
The Padres have dealt with their fair share of injuries, but are fully healthy in this series and as they gear up for the home stretch of the season.
This means they’ll have to deal with NL MVP candidate, Fernando Tatis Jr., as well as their host of talented offensive players. Tatis is looking to break out a slump that has seen him slashing .172/.314/.397 since Aug. 18.
The Padres are coming off of a series win against the AL West leaders, the Houston Astros. This likely gives them a big confidence boost going up against the battered Angels.
A sweep would give San Diego much-needed breathing room, making it even more important that the Halos put together quality games during this shortened series.
It’s been said plenty of times, but the Angels can only go as far as their pitching allows. This has been amplified in recent weeks due to injuries and COVID protocols, and it will assuredly be the deciding factor in this series.
Obviously, wins are not the determining factor of their success anymore this season. But even a single win against the Padres in this two-gamer — like their series last weekend — would go a long way within the clubhouse.
Moving away from pitching, Maddon has made it clear that he is going to continue to give opportunities to the combination of Jack Mayfield and Luis Rengifo at the shortstop position. Between those two and Phil Gosselin, the right side of the infield is settled for the final month.
Justin Upton remains on the 10-day IL, meaning Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, and Juan Lagares will be an almost permanent outfield until he can return. A Mike Trout return seems less likely by the day.
The Angels have 24 games left, and each is an opportunity for a young player to earn their spot on next year’s roster.
Angels (68-70) vs. Padres (73-64)
Petco Park, San Diego, California
Game 1: Tuesday, September 7, 7:10 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West, ESPN+
Game 2: Wednesday, September 8, 5:10 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Packy Naughton (0-1, 4.00 ERA) vs. Blake Snell (7-5, 4.31 ERA)
TBD vs. Yu Darvish (7-9, 4.05 ERA)