The Los Angeles Angels need to act fast if they want to talk themselves into becoming buyers at the July 30 trade deadline. To do this, they need to take advantage of inferior opponents, and they’ll have a great opportunity to do that with a four-game set against the lowly Minnesota Twins.
The Twins came in to the 2021 season with high hopes. Coming off a division title in the shortened 2020 season, they felt they had made the necessary moves to repeat those efforts over a longer season. Instead, they have fallen short in every way, sitting at 14 games below .500 and 17 games back of the AL Central lead.
The Angels, meanwhile, still are on the fence of playoff contention, and losing four of their first five games out of the All-Star break has certainly not helped. A four-game set against a team likely looking to sell some Major League players away to contenders may be exactly what the Halos need. The Angels hold a 74.1 win percentage against below-.500 teams.
Sadly, it looks as though they will once again be without Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Justin Upton, however, will return for the opener of this series. This means that Shohei Ohtani, David Fletcher, Upton, and Jared Walsh must carry the team’s offense the way they’ve done all year.
As far as analytics and roster construction go, the Twins are surprisingly similar to the Angels. Both teams are heavily reliant on their offense, which is littered with talent across the board. Beyond the injured Byron Buxton, the Twins are led by Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Jorge Polanco.
Their offensive unit ranks 11th in MLB in batting average, 10th in OPS, third in home runs, and 12th in total runs scored. Given that type of offensive output, it’s assumed that the Twins would be at least close to .500 like the Angels.
However, pitching and defense routinely cost the Twins games, a phrase that sounds all too familiar for fans in Anaheim. The Twins’ starting pitching staff consists of Jose Berrios, Kenta Maeda, and others, and it’s a group that has been relatively unsuccessful outside of Berrios.
As a team, Minnesota ranks 27th in ERA, 20th in WHIP, 26th in opponent batting average, and 22nd in strikeouts. Berrios and bullpen arms Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers are perhaps the only saving graces for a troubled pitching staff.
In fairness to that pitching staff, they get little help from their defense. The Twins are 29th in fielding percentage and have committed the third-most errors in all of baseball.
The Angels are home to one of the 3-5 best offenses in baseball, and they desperately need to get out of the slump that started in Oakland. They scored just one combined run over two games, but will be given a much easier task in the Twins.
This is perhaps the final gasp for the Angels to shoot themselves back into playoff contention. A 3-1 or 4-0 outing in Minnesota puts them back above .500 within shouting distance of a playoff spot. Anything beneath that could force the Angels to answer some serious questions.
Angels (46-48) vs. Twins (41-55)
Target Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Game 1: Thursday, July 22, 5:10 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 2: Friday, July 23, 5:10 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 3: Saturday, July 24, 4:10 p.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Game 4: Sunday, July 25, 11:10 a.m. PT, Bally Sports West
Probable Pitching Matchups:
Andrew Heaney (5-7, 5.56 ERA) vs. Kenta Maeda (4-3, 4.71 ERA)
Alex Cobb (7-3, 3.96 ERA) vs. J.A. Happ (5-5, 6.15 ERA)
Patrick Sandoval (2-4, 3.86 ERA) vs. Jose Berrios (7-4, 3.69 ERA)
TBD vs. Bailey Ober (1-1, 5.45 ERA)