The Los Angeles Angels return to Anaheim after a quick two-series road trip. And for the final time in the 2022 season, they begin a two-series homestand at the Big A against two American League West opponents. The first being the Oakland Athletics.
Perhaps no team took a sharper turn during the offseason than the Athletics. They had a talented, playoff-contending roster heading into the offseason, and traded nearly every major contributor. The result is the second-worst record in the Majors and the worst in the AL at 56-97.
Meanwhile, the Angels attempted to stay the course yet again, adding ancillary pieces around Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the hopes they could compete for their first playoff berth since 2014. While things got off to a remarkable start, they quickly collapsed.
Now, at 67-86, they have already secured their seventh consecutive losing season, and are on pace to have their worst record since the shortened 2020 season. So in this series, the Angels are simply hopeful to find something they can build upon for 2023.
Game 1: Tuesday, Sep. 27, 6:38 p.m. PT
The series opener sees Patrick Sandoval take the mound against James Kaprielian. Sandoval’s 2022 season has been well-documented for the frustrations surrounding it. The 25-year old starter was disappointing in his high WHIP, allowing far too many walks and hits in the early part of the season.
However, he has been strong since the All-Star break. He has allowed more than two earned runs just twice since the break, and his WHIP is a full 0.100 lower than his season total. He has tossed a career-high 137.1 innings this season, and doubled down on his breakout 2021 season by posting an ERA of 3.01 compared to 3.62 last year.
Sandoval projects to have two more starts this season, both against the Athletics. If he can compile two more impressive outings, he can head into the offseason having secured a sub-3.00 ERA, a huge momentum boost for a critical offseason in Anaheim.
On the Athletics side, Kaprielian has pitched 122.0 innings this season. He’s 4-9 with a 4.43 ERA and 1.369 WHIP. He has just 86 strikeouts this year compared with 57 walks. For reference, Sandoval has the same walk total of 57, but with 141 punch-outs.
Game 2: Wednesday, Sep. 28, 6:38 p.m. PT
Michael Lorenzen has recently stated that he wants to be back with the Angels in 2023. But given his long-term injury in 2022, he hasn’t had too many chances to prove that he is fully healthy and ready to contend as the offseason approaches.
So a start like this — while irrelevant for the standings — is massive for a player like Lorenzen. Lorenzen has potentially two more starts this season, and if he is at his best, he may have an outside shot to reach 100 innings pitched.
Currently, he sits at 86.2, holding an ERA of 4.78 and a WHIP of 1.304. Since returning from a two-month stint on the IL, he has struggled with his command, walking eight batters in his last 15.2 innings. He may be able to get some run support, though, with the Angels teeing off against Adrian Martinez.
Martinez has only pitched 48.2 innings this season, but he holds an ERA of 6.10 and a WHIP of 1.521. He has allowed 12 home runs in his short time with the Athletics, meaning he gives up plenty of baserunners and significant hard contact.
Game 3: Thursday, Sep. 29, 6:38 p.m. PT
The best pitching matchup of the series comes in the finale, when Shohei Ohtani gets what could be his final start of the season against Cole Irvin. It’s unclear if Ohtani will get another opportunity to pitch in 2022, but moving up a start from his usual Saturday to Thursday could mean an attempt to put him on the mound for the season finale.
This decision could stem from the fact that Ohtani is just 9.0 innings away from qualifying for ERA and other statistical leaderboards league-wide, making him more likely to get involved in the Cy Young race.
If he reaches that 162 innings mark — currently at 153.0 — he’ll certainly have the stats to back up his case. He holds a 2.47 ERA, a 1.065 WHIP, and 203 strikeouts. With many of the AL’s Cy Young leaders succumbing to injury at some point this season, innings pitched totals may be less of a factor than normal.
Ohtani getting two more quality starts could go a long way towards getting his name on to a ballot for both the MVP award and Cy Young.
As for Irvin, he is having a relatively strong season. Despite the Athletics’ abysmal record, he is just 9-12. He has a 4.11 ERA and 1.146 WHIP in 171.0 innings.