Indians Travel to Anaheim Looking to End Losing Skid
Fresh off of losing three straight games to the San Francisco Giants, the Indians will travel south to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of the United States of North America of Planet Earth. In desperate need of a win, the Indians will look to remedy their current problems against an Angels team that continues to underwhelm and under-perform. Sound familiar? The Indians appear to be taking up that same mantra here in 2014.
Led by super-star outfielder Mike Trout, the Angels currently sit in third place in the AL West. At 11-13, they are 3.5 games behind the powerhouses that have dominated the division the past five years, the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics. If the Angels don’t turn things around soon, they stand the risk of falling out of playoff contention for the third straight year. That is something that won’t sit well for owner Arte Moreno, who has doled out big bucks for a title contender.
However, 2014 hasn’t been like other years. This season the Angels are actually performing well. Offensively, they are the third highest scoring team in baseball. They have scored a total of 130 runs. This despite a .253 batting average that ranks 13th and .317 OBP that ranks 16th.
That’s because the Angels have done it all with the long ball. Their 37 home runs as a team is the most in baseball and their .448 slugging percentage ranks second in all of baseball. Only the Rockies, who consistently put up video game style numbers thanks to Coors Field, rank higher with .470.
Albert Pujols is largely responsible for the team assault on baseballs. After two middling, injury plagued seasons with the Angels, Pujols is back to being his normal, baseball demolishing self. His 9 long balls rank second in all of baseball behind Jose Abreu of the White Sox. Finally healthy and with his legs under him, Pujols is back to being a one man wrecking crew and a force to be reckoned with.
However, Pujols isn’t the start of the show for the Angels. That distinction belongs to Mike Trout. He is once agian putting up all-world number for the Angels and leads the team in almost every other major statistical category. Entering play today, his slash line sits ate a redonkulous .320/.387/.590. He is arguably the best all around player in the game today and is worth every penny the Angels have agreed to commit to him. The scariest part of all is that he is only going to get better.
Also, he does ridiculous things defensively in the outfield.
Perhaps the biggest blow for the Angels so far in 2014 has been the loss of Josh Hamilton. Like Pujols, Hamilton struggled mightily in his first season with the Angels in 2013 and looked like a player who was past his prime. Rumors of his demise may have been a bit premature. Up until he injured his thumb stupidly sliding head first into first base, Hamilton was putting up Hamilton-like numbers. Yes, it was a small sample size, but at .444/.545/.741 he appeared to be back to normal. Unfortunately, he is out for a prolonged period of time while his thumbs heels.
Meanwhile, the performance of the Angels’ pitching staff has been a welcomed sight. They have been fantastic so far in 2014 and have continued the trend of resurgence that was started with Pujols and Hamilton.
Staff ace C.J. Wilson leads the way. In 31.2 innings of work, Wilson has posted a 3-2 record with a 3.69 ERA and team leading 33 strikeouts. The Angels also have a dominating flame thrower on their side in Jered Weaver. The hard throwing righty has experienced a few injuries over the past few seasons and seen his velocity trail off a bit, but he is still among the upper tier of big league pitchers. At any moment he could turn it all around and start putting up monster numbers.
Out in the bullpen the Angels have had a bit of turmoil. Ernesto Frieri began the year as closer, but an underwhelming performance to start the season has resulted in him losing the job. The Angels’ new closer? Well, it’s none other than former Indian Joe Smith. Smith takes over the closer role after leading the team in holds to start the season. This is Smith’s first real opportunity as a closer and seems to be a role he is ready for. In limited ninth inning appearances for the Indians, Smith was very successful. He should have no issues.
Much like the A’s and Giants before them, the Angels will serve as a nice test for the Indians. Whether or not they pass the test will be up to a struggling starting pitching staff, middling offense, and startlingly bad defense. The Indians need to fix their issues sooner rather than later. At three games back of the Tigers, the Indians can ill-afford to fall any further behind. Divisions cannot be won in April, but they can certainly be lost. Let’s hope the Indians can get back on track with a solid
Jered Weaver (1-2, 4.11) vs. Corey Kluber (2-2, 3.90)
C.J. Wilson (3-2, 3.69) vs. Carlos Carrasco (0-3, 6.95)