The Yankees’ west coast swing is almost over. Last stop: Anaheim, for three games against the Mike Trout-less Angels. They still have Shohei Ohtani, at least. He’s starting the middle game of this series, and he surely wants revenge for his awful start at Yankee Stadium two months ago. Even with Ohtani’s amazing season, the Angels remain a middling-to-bad baseball team. This tweet is evergreen:
every time I see an Angels highlight it’s like “Mike Trout hit three homes runs and raised his average to .528 while Shohei Ohtani did something that hasn’t been done since ‘Tungsten Arm’ O’Doyle of the 1921 Akron Groomsmen, as the Tigers defeated the Angels 8-3”
Look, if Ohtani wants to swat a few more homers or strike out a dozen batters this week, so be it. But the rest of the roster is so lackluster that even such a performance shouldn’t be enough to beat the Yankees. With that, let’s get familiar with the 64-67 Angels.
After a downright pathetic weekend in Boston, the Yankees are back home to welcome Shohei Ohtani and the Angels to Yankee Stadium for a four game series.
It’s one thing to say that the Yankees need to right the ship this week, but it’s another to feel confident in the team doing so. I can’t blame you if you have your doubts. Every time this team appears to wake up, it takes a couple of giant steps backwards. That said: the Yankees can’t waste any time feeling sorry for themselves after getting swept at the hands of the Red Sox.
Fortunately, the Angels aren’t a good team in spite of Ohtani’s brilliance, so the Yankees have an opportunity to get back on track. Of course, we’ve seen that story before. This year’s Bombers are maddeningly inconsistent. It’s going to take more than just a good series against the Angels to feel better about the club’s prognosis. That said, a series win — whether three of four or a sweep — would be a start.
Tonight is as nervous (it’s excited nervous, to be clear) for a regular season game as I’ve been in quite a while. Severino is extremely important. I really hope he comes out firing. I feel really good about this Yankees team going into October anyway, but gosh, wouldn’t it be so, so nice to know that Luis Severino looks like Luis Severino? Tonight is step one.
Anyway, Steven has you covered with the series preview, which has everything you need to know and more about the Angels.
To the lineups!
Angels (68-82) 1. Brian Goodwin, CF 2. David Fletcher, 3B 3. Kole Calhoun, RF 4. Albert Pujols, DH 5. Andrelton Simmons, SS 6. Jared Walsh, 1B 7. Luis Rengifo, 2B 8. Michael Hermosillo, LF 9. Anthony Bemboon, C SP: Noé Ramirez
Yankees (98-53) 1. DJ LeMahieu, 1B 2. Aaron Judge, RF 3. Didi Gregorius, SS 4. Gleyber Torres, 2B 5. Luke Voit, DH 6. Brett Gardner, CF 7. Gio Urshela, 3B 8. Cameron Maybin, LF 9. Austin Romine, C SP: Luis Severino (season debut!)
Game time is at 6:35 pm in the Bronx. You can catch the game on YES or with Ma and Pa Yankee on WFAN, if you prefer.
Giancarlo Stanton is expected to be activated either tomorrow or Thursday, per James Wagner. He’s apparently been hitting and fielding, as expected. Rejoice!
Breyvic Valera has been designated for assignment to make room for Severino Cefarino, per Lindsey Adler. Valera hit .219/.324/.313 in 37 plate appearances this season.
Aaron Hicks is in the “early stages” of a throwing program in Tampa, per Bryan Hoch. There’s not a lot of time left. I am extremely pessimistic we see Hicks again this season, which sucks.
Gary Sánchez is undergoing treatment for his groin strain, per Bryan Hoch. He reports that Boone is “optimistic” we’ll see him before the regular season, but as Boone noted, we’re “cutting it close.”
The Yankees kick off their final homestand of the year with a visit from the Angels.
Their Story So Far
The Halos, at 68-82, are at heart a stars and scrubs roster without enough star power around the best player in the game. The stars that they do have are mostly out for this series, and their pitching staff never had much going for it to start.
You won’t see Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani or Justin Upton this series. Ohtani is probably the team’s best starter when healthy, and their second best starter tragically passed away this summer.
The Angels have now spent five seasons in the wilderness since their last postseason berth. They have Trout under contract for 11 more seasons. Without a serious infusion of pitching from outside the organization, it’s hard to see a return to the postseason in the near-term future.
Trout (foot surgery), Ohtani (knee surgery), Upton (patella tendonitis) and Zack Cozart (shoulder surgery) are all out for the season. As are pitchers Cam Bedrosian, Griffin Canning and Felix Pena.
Starting second baseman Tommy La Stella is recovering from a leg injury, but he’s made the trip with the team and could be activated from the IL. Backup catcher Max Stassi has missed the last two weeks with an oblique injury.
Spotlight/Milestone Watch: Albert Pujols
The Angels chapter of Albert Pujols’ career has been a sad slog for the most part, far from the fantastic heights he reached in St. Louis. Still, there are some signs of life in the 39-year-old’s bat.
Pujols has been perfectly league-average at the plate this season (101 OPS+, 100 wRC+), but he’s come on in the second half. Since the All-Star break, he’s batting .276/.328/.492 with 10 home runs and a 116 wRC+.
With his 656th career home run Sunday, he’s just four homers behind Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. Pujols has hit 23 home runs this season and two more years on his contract. It’s not inconceivable, even with his decline, that he could reach 700 and move into the top four in history.
Ohtani’s injury has allowed Pujols to shift back to DH, where he can actually provide value for Anaheim. He’s one of the 2-3 most fearsome hitters left in the lineup, which isn’t a great sign for the Angels, but Pujols still has pop.
Brian Goodwin, CF (.272/.332/.487, 114 wRC+)
David Fletcher, 3B (.288/.349/.385, 99 wRC+)
Kole Calhoun, RF (.231/.325/.473, 108 wRC+)
Albert Pujols, DH (.251/.313/.453, 100 wRC+)
Andrelton Simmons, SS (.261/.304/.357, 76 wRC+)
Jared Walsh, 1B (.211/.262/.333, 53 wRC+)
Luis Rengifo, 2B (.239/.323/.366, 87 wRC+)
Taylor Ward, LF (.111/.200/.222, 13 wRC+ in 20 PAs)
Kevan Smith, C (.245/.324/.384, 91 wRC+)
Also available, the Angels have catcher Anthony Bemboom (-26 wRC+ in 35 PAs), 1B Justin Bour (69 wRC+), infielder Matt Thaiss (76 wRC+) and outfielder Michael Hermosillo (78 wRC+ in 14 PAs).
Tuesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): Luis Severino (vs. Angels) vs. Jose Suarez
Suarez is a 21-year-old Venezuelan southpaw who, despite joining the rotation in June, will end up right near the team leaders in starts and innings. Though he has plenty of potential in his left arm, he hasn’t been effective on a Major League mound.
In 71 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 20 homers and has a 6.94 ERA (66 ERA+). His .398 wOBA is in the third percentile league-wide. He doesn’t strike out many hitters, issues a few too many walks and gives up more than a hit per inning. He’s been thrown out there in part because the Angels don’t have many other options.
Working in the low-90s with his fastball, Suarez is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher. Hitters have teed off on his fastball while his changeup has proven more effective (used about a third of the time). He has a high-spin curveball in the mid-70s, though it’s been hit hard.
Wednesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): CC Sabathia (vs. Angels) vs. Dillon Peters
Peters, 27, joined the Angels in an offseason trade with the Marlins and has bounced between Triple-A and the Majors ever since. With a 4.83 ERA (96 ERA+), he’s actually been one of the more effective Angels pitchers in his 59 2/3-inning stint.
Like Suarez, he doesn’t have sterling strikeout or walk rates, and he’s given up two homers per nine. However, he’s survived this season (especially compared to his time in Miami) by suppressing hard contact, lowering his average exit velocity to near league-average.
Still, his repertoire can be hit hard. He works with a low-90s fastball and goes to a mid-70s curveball (high-spin, just like Suarez) and a mid-80s changeup. He’s throwing the change more than he did a season ago, and that could be part of his modest improvement on the mound.
*Note: Neither Suarez nor Peters have faced a current Yankee other than Edwin Encarnación.
Thursday (6:35 p.m. EDT): TBD vs. Andrew Heaney (vs. Yankees)
A former top prospect, Heaney hoped to follow up his first full and healthy season in 2018 with a breakout 2019. However, despite further glimpses of potential, he had another injury-marred season.
He got off to a late start (May 26) to his season due to elbow issues and then missed nearly a month to a shoulder injury. In all, he has pitched to a respectable 4.76 ERA (97 ERA+) in 85 innings. He’s coming off one of his worst starts of the year in which he allowed three homers to the Rays in 3.1 innings.
Still, he can get swings and misses, sporting a 28.5 percent strikeout rate, 21st among pitchers with at least 80 innings. He leads off with his high-spin sinker, his bread-and-butter pitch and backs it up with a curveball and changeup.
Coming off a day off, here’s the rundown of relievers they have:
RHPs: Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson, Luke Bard, Ty Buttrey, Trevor Cahill, Taylor Cole, Luis Garcia, Jake Jewell, Keynan Middleton, Noe Ramirez, Jose Rodriguez LHPs: Miguel Del Pozo, Adelberto Mejia
For those who watched the 2017-18 Mets, you may be surprised to see Hansel Robles as the Angels’ dominant closer. He’s converted 21 saves and has a 2.36 ERA (195 ERA+). The team recently got 2018 closer Keynan Middleton back from Tommy John surgery and he’s a late-game option.
Ty Buttrey and Taylor Cole see some high-leverage work, while lefty Adalberto Mejia is a former Twin who could see left-on-left work. Luis Garcia is a former Phillies reliever and has seen high-leverage work in Anaheim and Philly.
Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill’s decline has sent him to the bullpen to finish out the season. With just three more innings, he’d become the first Angel this year to eclipse 100 innings. No team in MLB history has ever had zero 100-inning pitchers.