Series Preview: Anaheim Angels (16-17) @ Toronto Blue Jays (18-17)


May 8, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Edwin Encarnacion (right) is greeted in the team dugout by left fielder Melky Cabrera and shortstop Jose Reyes (left) after hitting a home run against Philadelphia Phllies at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

So it would seem we are starting to turn it around overall (save for Esmil Rogers…eek!). The starting pitching is getting better each time out and the hitters are hitting the proverbial snot out of the baseball. I kind of feel sorry for the Phillies giving up 11 homers in 4 games. The five game winning streak by the Blue Jays is their longest since the 11 gamer about a year ago. Heck even Adam Lind homered in his first game back off the disabled list. With Casey Janssen returning we may finally have the team we need…and with his supplanting Sergio Santos and anyone else in the closer spot perhaps the bullpen can be used the way it was meant to.

The Angels have owned the Blue Jays lately, winning 7 of the last 8 games. With Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun on the DL they are also facing a lineup with two big holes to fill (cleanup and leadoff respectively). Everybody killer Mike Trout has actually had a heck of a time playing in Toronto with an OPS of .793 and a batting average of .219. The Jays need to keep these two in check if they are to have a chance against a very good Angels pitching staff which has an overall ERA at 3.88. This should be a very evenly matched series.

Probable Starting Pitchers

Game #1: Garrett Richards (3-0, 2.84 ERA) vs Dustin McGowan (2-1, 4.80 ERA)

Richards is enjoying his first full season in the starting rotation. He has a better ERA than veterans C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver and hasn’t struck out less than five batters in any of his starts. If he didn’t give up 5 runs to Oakland he may lead the AL in ERA. He has pitched 7 a couple times so now it is time to really put it together. With a .184 BAA against and 1.13 WHIP he definitely has the tools to be a front end starter.

7 innings and 1 earned run. Over 100 pitches. That is what dead-armed Dustin was able to achieve in his last start. Perhaps we are finally going to see the career year and the special powers that the Blue Jays have been raving about since I was knee high to a tadpole…ok not that long but it’s a freaking long time! His fastball is sitting mid-nineties and his BAA against isn’t horrible. Once he turns a few more hits or outs to strikeouts the mission may finally have been completed. Let’s take the home field advantage in this one.

Game #2: Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 4.54 ERA) vs J.A. Happ (1-0, 1.93 ERA)

Almost 23 years old and put into the Angels rotation. Not too bad for a 1st round compensation pick in 2009. The ERA is up a bit but it seems like he has the same trajectory as Drew Hutchison…minus the brutal arm injury. He made there after a circuitous journey through Arizona and then back to the Angels. He has been held in high regard as the key pieces to these trades. His stuff isn’t overpowering people yet as reflected in his average K:9 this year (5.7/9).

So Happ made good on his first start of the season but the flags of walks and hits are still ringing in my ears. His career WHIP of 1.42 isn’t the makings of a great starter. He has control issues and is already a bit jaded by the way he has been treated so far. If Marcus Stroman can continue to learn on the job I see Happ and an outfielder as trade bait. Until then, we will be on the edge of our seats as Happ keeps us gasping for air. Give this one to the Angels

Game #3: Jered Weaver (3-2, 3.48 ERA) vs Drew Hutchison (1-2, 4.17 ERA)

Jered Weaver started off a bit scratchy but has settled back down into the ace of a decent Angels staff. His strike out rate is down but that screams a pitcher just learning to command his stuff and not just overpowering hitters. His closest current pitching equal according to is Adam Wainright…a decent hurler in his own right over in the National League. His .652 career winning percentage only solidifies his status as a top tier pitcher that may tie one on to the Blue Jays.

Drew Hutchison has been terrific this year. If you eliminate a bad pitch or inning in his games he is right there with the best. Now his next step is to economize his pitches even more and try not to give up the occasional late inning grand slam. His K/9 is decent enough to continue getting better and this will be a great test for him to pitch against an elite starter and see how it goes. For now though, It’s going to the Angels.

Game 4: C.J. Wilson (4-2, 3.21 ERA) vs Mark Buehrle (6-1, 1.91 ERA)

C.J. Wilson has continued to roll after signing with the Angels after a decent stint in Texas with the Rangers. He has killer command and is a perfect 1-2 punch with Weaver. He can carry a club on his shoulders if it comes down to it and has proven a durable inning eater, having broken 200 innings the last four seasons. A two-time all-star who just continues to roll along in the relative obscurity of the west coast.

Buehrle has possibly been the best pitcher in the AL so far. He has had decent strikeout numbers for a soft tossing lefty and last time out gave up only 3 hits to a decent Phillies squad as part of a 10-0 win. He has become the true ace of this staff and thus supplanted R.A. Dickey as the unspoken leader for the starters. 6 of 7 games he has given up 2 runs or less so look fo the Angels have some issue with the slower pitches given the power that does lurk in the bats of the team. Let’s give the game to the Jays….but barely.

Probable Starting Lineups

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

1. RF: Collin Cowgill
2. CF: Mike Trout
3. 1B: Albert Pujols
4. 2B Howie Kendrick
5. DH: C.J. Cron
6. SS: Erick Aybar
7. C: Chris Iannetta
8. 3B: John McDonald

Toronto Blue Jays

1. SS: Jose Reyes
2. LF: Melky Cabrera
3. RF: Jose Bautista
4. 1B: Edwin Encarnacion
5. C: Dioner Navarro
6. DH: Adam Lind
7. 3B: Juan Francisco
8. CF: Colby Rasmus
9. 2B: Chris Getz

Worth the Price of Admission: Albert Pujols has been resurgent this season. After a couple years of failing to live up to his mammoth contract he seems to have found his stroke in the warm California air. Double digit home runs already…OPS around .950…he could be back on track as one of the greatest players in the history of baseball.

Worth the Price of Justin Bieber’s Reputation:Raul Ibanez is slowly but surely declining into baseball nothingness. His batting average is wallowing around the Mendoza line and this appears to be the end of the line. A veteran pinch hitter is all we have left of a pretty decent 19 year career.