Angels-A’s rivalry shifts to Anaheim for four games

Angels-A’s rivalry shifts to Anaheim for four games


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Angels manager Mike Scioscia, left, talks with outgoing baseball commissioner Bud Selig before Wednesday night's game against the Marlins.

ANAHEIM – Angels fans are going to get their chance this weekend.

Much was made in the media last weekend, during the Angels-Athletics series in Oakland, about the loud and raucous atmosphere at the Coliseum.

Starting Thursday, the A’s will visit Angel Stadium for a four-game series.

“I played in Oakland and their fans are awesome,” said Huston Street, who came up with the A’s. “They put the fan in fanatic. You respect that as a player. You want your fans to be that way. Since I’ve been here in Anaheim, the fans are no different. This has been a lively place to play. … They have been packing them in here for a long time. As an opposing player coming into Angel Stadium, we felt it.”

This is obviously a critical series between the top two teams in the American League West.

While the A’s gave the ball to No. 6 starter Drew Pomeranz on Wednesday, just to push their top four starters into the Angels series, the Angels are still looking for one more starter.

Saturday will be the second turn for the spot vacated by injured Garrett Richards, and at the moment the Angels haven’t named a starter. Wade LeBlanc, who started in that spot Monday, was designated for assignment.

Of the pitchers currently on the roster, the only option is Cory Rasmus. Scioscia said Rasmus is a candidate, even though he hasn’t thrown more than 51 pitches in the majors this season. Rasmus has a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings out of the Angels’ bullpen.

The most likely options remain veteran Randy Wolf, who is pitching at Triple-A, and prospect Michael Roth, who is at Double-A.

Chris Volstad, who was a less likely choice all along, had to be scratched because of elbow discomfort this week, presumably eliminating him.


The Angels still may find a pitcher from outside the organization, but if they pick up someone who is signed for 2015, they are going to bump up against the Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $189 million.

That could be one of the impediments to acquiring a pitcher such as Bartolo Colon or Scott Feldman, each of whom has a CBT salary of $10 million in 2015.

The Angels are likely to have $140 million committed to 10 players, presuming they pick up Street’s option. If they offer arbitration to all six eligible players, that adds about another $20 million. Salaries of pre-arbitration players, benefits and performances bonuses add another $20 million.

They could reduce that figure with trades and non-tending arbitration eligible players.

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Final: Angels 8, Marlins 2

Final: Angels 8, Marlins 2


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The Angels' Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun celebrate after scoring on a single by Albert Pujols as part of a five-run fourth inning against the Marlins in Anaheim on Tuesday.

ANAHEIM – At this point, the exploits of Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker must be described by terms more all-encompassing than the likes of surprising or unexpected.

No one could have predicted what the 27-year-old rookie has done in 2014.

A career minor-leaguer at this time last year, Shoemaker shut the Miami Marlins down Tuesday at Angel Stadium as the Angels rolled to an 8-2 win and regained the lead in the American League West.

He was in control throughout Tuesday’s contest, allowing two singles and two walks, nothing else, while striking out six Marlins with his splitter over seven scoreless frames. He needed 96 pitches to get 21 outs, lowering his ERA to 3.33.

He has won 13 games, leading all MLB rookies. The Angels’ rookie record for victories in a season is 14.

Tuesday, the Angels attacked hard-throwing right-hander Nathan Eovaldi early. They scored a run on three first-inning singles and then pounced for five runs in the fourth, bouncing Eovaldi.

With one out in that frame, the Angels strung together six straight hits, capped by an Albert Pujols single. Four of the hits were singles, and it would have been five had Mike Trout not stretched a practically routine single into a double.

Trout, Pujols and third baseman David Freese recorded three-hit nights.

Because of Oakland’s loss in Houston, the Angels (78-53) regained the division lead and the best record in baseball.

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Final: Marlins 7, Angels 1

Final: Marlins 7, Angels 1


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ANAHEIM – If Garrett Richards’ impending absence from the Angels’ stretch run wasn’t obvious enough already, the man who replaced him Monday against the Miami Marlins made it all the more so.

In his first start for the Angels, left-hander Wade LeBlanc allowed as many baserunners as he got outs. He lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed six runs in the Angels’ 7-1 blowout loss at Angel Stadium.

LeBlanc got through the first two innings unscathed, technically, but the trouble was nearly unceasing. Hard-hit balls abounded.

Then he opened the third by walking the Marlins’ No. 8 hitter, Donovan Solano, and the damage began. Manager Mike Scioscia removed LeBlanc after he allowed three straight hits with one out in the fourth inning.

His replacement, right-hander Cory Rasmus, promptly gave up a three-run homer to Giancarlo Stanton that made it 7-0, and the rout was on.

The Angels (77-53) couldn’t figure out young Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart until the eighth inning, when they scored their only run on an RBI double by Kole Calhoun.

Shortstop Erick Aybar had three singles, but no other Angel reached base more than once.

The Angels again hold the same record as the Oakland Athletics, putting the teams in a tie atop the American League West – and atop all of baseball.

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Oakland A’s vs Anaheim Angels Series Preview

Starting this evening the Oakland A’s start a critical three-game series against the Anaheim Angels.

After dropping eight of their last 10 games the Oakland A’s find themselves out of first place in the A.L. West in the first time in a long time. That losing streak, combined with the Angels winnning eight of their last 10 games is how a four-game lead in the division had disappeared so fast.

The Angels are coming off of a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in Boston, so they may be a bit weary from travel. For the Oakland A’s, hopefully yesterday’s day off will prove helpful and has given them an extra day to prepare and work out some issues with hitting and pitching as well.

Can the bats for the Oakland A’s come back alive? In their last 10 games they have managed to score more than three runs just three times. Two of those resulted in wins. Also, two of those three times came in their last series against the Mets as well.

A couple of guys that are struggling and need to pick it up are Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. Moss is hitless in his last four games (although he walked six times in that span) and only has four RBI’s in the month of August. Derek Norris has also registered just five hits in his last 10 games. Those hits were spread through just three games though and he has gone hitless in seven of his last 10 games.

Here are the pitching probables for this upcoming three-game series.

Game 1- Sonny Gray (12-7, 2.99 ERA) vs Hector Santiago (3-7, 3.46 ERA)

Sonny Gray has struggled as of late and in four starts in the month of August has posted a 0-4 record to go along with a 4.94 ERA. That includes four earned on eight hits in his last start. He was also tagged by the Royals for six runs back on August 6th.

Game 2- Jon Lester (3-1, 2.93) vs C.J. Wilson (10-8, 4.59 ERA)

The second game of the series will feature the red-hot Lester who has had 12 consecutive quality starts against Wilson who has won two consecutive games as well. Wilson has had trouble with his command throughout the season, and that was evident in his last start where he gave five free passes. Patience may be the key for the Oakland A’s against Wilson.

Game 3 – Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73) vs Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70 ERA)

The series finale pits Scott Kazmir against a struggling Weaver. Weaver has not pitched into the seventh inning since July 23rd — six starts — and has issued four or more walks in three of those games. Kazmir had struggled at the end of July and into early August, but his last start against the Mets showed he is moving in the right direction. In that game he allowed just one run on four hits in six innings.

Tags: Jon Lester Oakland Athletics Scott Kazmir Sonny Gray

The Battle Begins: Oakland vs. Anaheim

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By Matt Furtado / KHTK Sports 1140

What started off as a 162 game marathon among four teams pushing to win the American League West Division has now turned into a 36 game sprint between the Oakland Athletics and the division leading Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

For the majority of the season, the Athletics looked like the better team. In fact, they looked like the best team in baseball. On June 21, the Green and Gold were six games ahead of the Halos. They slowly watched that lead drop, holding just a game and half lead at the All-Star break.

Since the break, the Angels continued to gain ground on the A’s and on Monday they surpassed the Athletics to take hold of the division lead for the first time all season.

With an 18-13 record after the All-Star break, the Angels currently have a game and a half lead on the Athletics, who have posted a record of 15-16 during the same time frame.

The two teams play each other 10 more times throughout the remaining 36 games of the schedule, including the three game set which starts tomorrow in Oakland. These 10 games will ultimately hold a big say in who finishes the season on top.

Between the two teams, the Athletics have the easier remaining schedule, but not by much. Not only does Oakland host six of the 10 remaining games between the two clubs, but the A’s also have 20 games against teams that having a winning percentage of .500 or below, as opposed to Anaheim’s 18 games.

Although Anaheim holds the lead right now, there might be some concern with the stability of the Angels’ starting rotation after the possible season-ending injury to ace Garrett Richards.

The Athletics have seen run production decrease since trading away Yoenis Cespedes; finding a groove without the Cuban slugger will be key for the A’s to end on top of the division.

With the A’s skipping Jason Hammel’s scheduled start on Friday, the Athletics will have Cy Young candidates Sonny Gray, Jon Lester and Scott Kazmir pitching in this weekend’s series.

The A’s offensive struggles will be their downfall though. Look for the Athletics to take two out of three games in the series which would close the gap by one game.

It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be exciting and It’s going to be fun.

For complete coverage of this weekend’s series for first place in the division, tune into KHTK Sports 1140.



The A’s won’t catch the Angels by blaming the Curse of Cespedes

On Sunday night, the Athletics lost 4-3 to the Braves at Turner Field. The A’s scored two runs off of starter Mike Minor and another off of reliever Anthony Varvaro, but Craig Kimbrel did his job in the ninth inning to complete a three-game sweep. It’s mid-August and the best team in baseball just got swept in interleague play by a zombie team that had been holding an open competition to put the final nail in their own coffin by handing out hammers to the opposition.

Sunday’s loss meant five defeats in a row for the A’s. Not only have they blown the four-game lead in the AL West they held over the Anaheim Angels as recently as August 10, but Monday’s off-day, combined with the Angels’ 4-2 in over the Red Sox, served to drop them a half-game behind. It’s the first time the A’s have been out of first place since April 23, when the season was just 21 games old. The knee-jerk reaction has been to blame the trade of Yoenis Cespedes for an epidemic of cold bats, but that’s an overly simplistic and unrealistic diagnosis.

According to the Baseball Prospectus playoff odds, which given the unpredictability of baseball should be taken as half science and half tasseography, the A’s have a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs and a 13.8 percent chance of winning the World Series. These are still good odds to be certain, but there’s tension in wondering if this August slump is merely a transient weaknesses or a sign of further disappointments to come.

For most of this season, the A’s made virtually everything — hitting, pitching, defense, catching balls in an expansive foul territory, even dancing to Careless Whisper — look simple and fun. But for the unknown results of the as-yet unplayed Angels game that for now separates Oakland from the division lead (the half-game gap is due to the Angels having played one fewer game than the A’s), the A’s have the best record in baseball (73-52) and a +161 run differential, the best in the majors by a 68-run margin. Thanks to Josh Donaldson and a passel of killer defensive outfielders their pitching staff has been supported by the second-best defense in the American League as measured by Defensive Runs Saved.

Josh Reddick (Jason O. Watson)

That pitching is among the best in the league (a 116 ERA+ ranks them second, just behind the Mariners) an impressive feat given the unrest in their rotation caused by a struggling Tommy Milone (who was demoted and subsequently traded), an injury to Drew Pomeranz, Scott Kazmir’s rough August, and Jason Hammel’s 6.75 ERA with just one quality starts in seven attempts since he joined the team. (And that’s just the rotation — we can’t forget the Jim Johnson implosion, though to the club’s credit they did limit the damage therefrom by unplugging the former Oriole from the ninth inning after just their eighth game).

In a weaker division, the A’s wouldn’t have to go through the final months at the same clip they did at the beginning, but the AL West is unforgiving this season. Both the A’s and Angels are on pace for 95 wins and stand to capitalize on the misfortunes of one another. As I wrote last week, the Angels have their own mess on their hands (potentially a bigger mess than the A’s do), the main priority for both teams now is to win the AL West outright to avoid the wild card play-in game. The A’s offense had slowed in the second half, but they hadn’t shown real signs of the dreaded slump until now — prior to August, their worst month was May and they still had a .571 win percentage, which to put in perspective, was still better than the best month the Texas Rangers have had all season. Perhaps some of the regression is to be expected because even teams that go on to win the World Series have dry spells throughout the year, but the bigger concern is that luck, depth, and hitting prowess are running out in the final two months of the season.

Any concerns about the rotation were addressed prior to the non-waiver trade deadline by adding not one but two of the best pitchers available (Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester) giving the A’s a surplus of options and arguably the best rotation in baseball. Every rotation has holes-some important games down the stretch will be left to Hammel and Kazmir — the latter has been strong for most of the season, but his a declining strikeout rate (9.9 per nine in June, 8.7 in July, 4.7 in August) and career history serve as a reminder that the Pitching Gods can withdraw their favor at any time — but the A’s made incredible efforts to fix what they could on the mound. What remains to be seen, however, is if the offense can withstand injuries and sluggers gone cold in their remaining 39 games.

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It’s easy to blame the team’s recent offensive struggles on the Lester trade, which sent left fielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox, but the curse of Cespedes is a hoax, a hyperbolic vigil that glosses over the fact that the team’s offense was already struggling prior to the trade and that Cespedes himself was hitting just .198/.221/.352 with three home runs in July. Given his struggles to hold onto a .300 on-base percentage, his value was in his combination of power and defense, not as a motor of the offense. That’s not to diminish what he was capable of at his best, but to credit the team’s slump to his absence is to impute magical powers to a player who now spends most of his days 3000 miles away.

In the first half of the season, the A’s had a .720 OPS. In the second half, they have a .698 OPS with roughly the same batting average on balls in play, so, unfortunately, it’s not just the case of more balls finding gloves than before. In terms of percentages, the A’s have fewer hits, home runs, and walks in the second half even though they are striking out less.

Brandon Moss (Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports)

There’s a lot to unpack with the A’s offense right now — a combination of hitters gone cold, failing platoons, injuries, and egregious misuse of the designated hitter. No one is feeling the slump more than Brandon Moss, who has been frozen in the second half. Moss had 21 home runs in the first half of the season, but he’s hit .204/.327/.290 with just two home runs since the All-Star Break. Though Moss is hitting lefties this season better than he had in his major-league career to date, the A’s don’t have to rely on that — they can now platoon him with Jonny Gomes. Gomes has received some criticism since he was traded to the A’s, which is to be expected given the new addition is a poor approximation of Cespedes, but it’s been just 23 plate appearances, and even in one of his worst offensive seasons, he has a.380 on-base percentage against left-handed pitching (consistent with his .277/.377/.491 career rates against them), which should help defray some of Moss’s struggles at the plate.

Prior to the trade, the A’s had a complex alchemy of platoons and defense, and the one way that losing Cespedes clearly hurts is in transferring a weaker defensive player from first base to left field and removing all semblance of offense. Ideally, the latter would have offset the former. With Moss spending more time in the outfield, first base is now a platoon of Nate Freiman and Stephen Vogt. Manager Bob Melvin can ride the hot hand with Freiman, who has a 136 OPS+ in (small sample size ahoy) 50 plate appearances this season, but Vogt, just like Moss, is one of the hitters in the lineup who has gone terribly cold (perhaps the consequence of a bone bruise in his right foot) and has watched his on-base percentage tumble from .388 down to .309 since the break.

The A’s are also handcuffed by their desire to keep Coco Crisp in the lineup; he’s hitting .123/.233/.164 with zero stolen bases in 86 plate appearances in the second half. It’s not all his fault — since a collision with a pole in the outfield fence back in May, Crisp has dealt with a neck injury that an MRI later showed to have caused “chronic, degenerative changes” in his neck. Crisp spent July and August as a perpetual day-to-day case without hitting the disabled list, but since he returned to the lineup nightly on August 5th, he hasn’t produced. It’s unclear how long manager Bob Melvin will let him struggle (he said recently that putting Crisp in the lineup, “puts a smile on his face,” which might give Crisp a longer leash than some) before Sam Fuld or Billy Burns get regular time in center field to give Crisp a chance to rest for the postseason.

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Oakland’s offensive struggles only serve to highlight the deficiencies in the A’s plan for designated hitter, which is a polite way of saying that they don’t have one. Since June, no player has started three straight games as the DH, which would look like genius management of talent if it was working, but the A’s rank 13th in terms of DH production this season — which makes it even harder not to raise an eyebrow when it’s being used as an active disabled list for tired or injured players (Crisp has DH’d four times this month).

Despite their 7-10 record in August and current five-game losing streak (their worst of the season), there is a lot of good on this A’s roster. A team doesn’t become the best team in the American League on a fluke over this many games, so maybe this stretch of losses and weak offense is just a temporary aberration, something that all teams go through over the course of the season. With the addition of Samardzija and Lester, the rotation should remain a solidly reliable asset over the final two months. As much as the team is struggling offensively, Josh Donaldson is having an MVP-caliber season, showing how power and great defense can make a low batting average an afterthought; Josh Reddick is producing at the plate now that he’s healthy, and Derek Norris is having the best offensive season among American League catchers, though he too has gone cold of late.

The Angels have a half-game lead for first in the AL West now, however nothing is a lock given the schedule; this isn’t a race that will resolve itself quickly: the Angels and A’s face each other 10 more times before the season ends, and they each have another half-dozen games against the Mariners. It’s a question of which team seems the worse for wear down the stretch and if you line the rosters up side-by-side, the Angels have more obstacles, but with their thin rotation pitching well of late they have managed to overcome them, at least temporarily, winning six of their last eight games.

In the end, though, any arguments we can make or the difficulties presented by the schedule pale next to this simple truth: The A’s need to find their bats; if they do, they’ll win, and if they don’t, Billy Beane’s boldest season will come down to a one-game play-in. Even if the A’s survive it, that would qualify as a collapse for the ages. Regardless, though, Jon Lester added more than Cespedes subtracted, and barring poor performance from the former, whatever happens next will be on the batters that still remain.