Los Angeles Angels
Wait, didn't we just see these guys? Yep, the Mariners closed the unofficial first half of the season with three games against the Angels, and they're now opening the second half against with three games against the Angels. The vagaries of computerized scheduling. The Mariners won two of those last three games and six of the ten played between the two clubs thus far in 2021.
At one game over .500, the Halos are either overperforming or an embarrassment to themselves, depending on your perspective. They are one of the best offensive teams in the American League (and yeah, that has a different scale this year than it would most others) despite being without key parts of their regular lineup for much of the season, and, of course, they have the game's most exciting player in Shohei Ohtani. On the other hand, their starting pitching has been awful outside of Ohtani; some reshuffling has helped, with southpaws Patrick Sandoval and José Suarez moving in from the bullpen, but this is not exactly Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz here.
Former MVP Mike Trout had been expected return to action on Sunday, but that now seems unlikely. Third baseman Anthony Rendon remains on the injured list—his third trip to the IL this season—as does outfielder Justin Upton. The Angels picked up some help over the break, though, signing recently-released outfielder Adam Eaton, who had been a productive member of the Washington Nationals' championship in 2019 but this year had been scuffling as a member of the Chicago White Sox. The Halos hope a change of scenery will help him get back to his earlier form. Meantime, there is always Ohtani. Though he won't pitch in this series, the Japanese superstar will be in the lineup, leading the Angels in OPS by a lot at 1.062; he leads the league in both home runs (33) and triples (4). The Mariners have handled Ohtani well so far, though, holding him to a .171 average in 43 trips to the plate. David Fletcher and Jared Walsh are the other two Angel batters to keep an eye on, along with part-time catcher Max Stassi.
Scheduled to start the three games on the mound are lefty Andrew Heaney, righty Alex Cobb, and Sandoval. Heaney lost to the M's on April 30th (a 7-4 Seattle win), Cobb has faced the M's twice already and won once (a 12-5 Angel victory June 5th) with a no-decision the other time (an eventual 7-3 Seattle win a week ago), and Sandoval is 0-2 vs. the M's this year, losing on June 6th despite racking up 10 strikeouts and last Saturday despite a strong seven innings (2 earned runs, the only scoring in the game). They'll be opposed by Chris Flexen (1-0 in two starts vs. the Halos this year), Yusei Kikuchi (no decision in his only start against LAA in ’21), and Logan Gilbert (1-0, 1 ER in one start vs. LAA).
|vs. AL West||15-22|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
.286/.390/.771, 5 HR, 7 RBI
.444/.457/.644, 2 HR, 8 RBI
.316/.381/.447, 2 XBH, 3 RBI
.167/.205/.306, 10 Ks
.179/.258/.214, 9 Ks
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|7/11/21||LAA 7, SEA 1|
|7/10/21||SEA 2, LAA 0|
|7/9/21||SEA 7, LAA 3|
|6/6/21||SEA 9, LAA 5|
|6/5/21||LAA 12, SEA 5|
|6/4/21||LAA 3, SEA 2|
|6/3/21||SEA 6, LAA 2|
|5/2/21||SEA 2, LAA 0|
|5/1/21||LAA 10, SEA 5|
|4/30/21||SEA 7, LAA 4|
Joe Maddon: He took the Rays to a World Series. He brought a championship to Chicago with the Cubs (the Cubs!). He's won everywhere he's gone. Maddon took over the Angels from Brad Ausmus last year and he couldn't be happier. “The Angel uniform is the most comfortable uniform I could possibly wear,” he said, having returned to the franchise he was a minor-league catcher with in 1976. Maddon managed in the Angels minors for years, then moved up to the big-league coaching staff and spent a decade as Mike Scioscia's bench coach before getting his first Major League managing gig with Tampa Bay.
Maddon's teams have made eight postseasons, and while a ninth time this season seems unlikely, with his impressive history it can't be written off as impossible. That he was even available to come to Anaheim is remarkable, but despite his success in Chicago, Cubs management started to butt heads with Maddon which made it easier for him to look for work elsewhere. Said Maddon, "When I started there—'15, '16, '17—it was pretty much my methods. And then all of a sudden, after '18 going into '19, they wanted to change everything."
Though he's used analytics in moderation, Maddon isn't a fan of the "statcast era" as an overriding philosophy and tends to mix in old-school approaches with his modern sensibilities. "Analytics and technology," he says, "[subtract] passion from what we do, not only in sports but in our regular lives ... my conclusion is that [such things are] slightly responsible for putting the game in a position where it's not as attractive to fans."
Steve Cishek: A Mariner from 2016-’17, Steve did a nice job for Seattle as a late-inning option out of the bullpen, pitching to a 2.89 ERA with 26 saves and a WHIP just a hair over 1.000. The M's traded him to Tampa Bay in July of ’17 in order to re-acquire Erasmo Ramírez in a deal that ended up not much helping either team; even though Cishek was terrific for the Rays, they still finished five games back of the Twins for the last playoff berth that year. Since then, Cishek had two very good years as a Chicago Cub (under manager Joe Maddon) before spending the abbreviated 2020 campaign with the crosstown White Sox. To start this season, the sidearming righty didn't performed that well, but picked things up as the season wore on and the Angels aren't worried. Said pitching coach Matt Wise, "I have full confidence in Cishek and his ability to get outs in meaningful innings. He has been there before and has done it a long time and we are going to continue to rely on him." Though the Angels pursued him in the offseason, Cishek opted instead to sign with Houston because they hold spring training in Florida and the east-coast-residing Cisheks had a newborn at home. "I didn't want to bring my family out [west] for the spring." But when it became clear the Astros weren't going to give him a roster spot, he asked for his release and accepted an offer from Maddon's Angels.
|Los Angeles Angels||(2016 - present)|
|Division Titles:||1979, 1982, 1986, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2014|
Mike Trout: As a child, Trout and his brother Tyler went to the Cumberland County Fair and played the game where one throws a baseball at a pyramid of milk bottles to win a prize. Trout was so good at it that he was banned from the game. Tyler described young Mike as "furious" at not being allowed to knock down any more bottles.
Anthony Rendon: While with the Nationals, Rendon's penchant for hitting doubles earned him the nickname of "Tony Two Bags" among his teammates.
Kurt Suzuki doesn't pay much attention to politics. A member of the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals, Suzuki went to the White House with other members of the team (not all—some boycotted) and reveled in the experience, even allowing himself to be used as a prop by the then-president. The former president had Suzuki put on a MAGA cap and then hugged Suzuki weirdly from behind. By his own account, the Japanese-American catcher was just enjoying the moment and the grandeur of being at the White House, but fans in his home state of Hawaii and people throughout the Asian-American community were appalled at his tone-deafness in allowing himself to be used in photographs as the former president's "Asian friend."
Raisel Iglesias: It took two attempts, but the Angels' closer succeeded in fleeing his native Cuba in November 2013. He'd played in the World Baseball Classic for the Cuban national team that year and knew he had a good chance of playing pro ball in the U.S. if he could just get here. From Cuba he established residency in Haiti and held an open tryout in Mexico that landed him a contract with the Cincinnati Reds (he was traded to the Angels last December). Now Iglesias lives in Miami and hopes to be able to get his family out of Cuba to join him. "I have half my family here with me," he said. "I have my mom. I hope soon I can have my brothers here." His father is unlikely to get to leave Cuba, but was fully supportive of Raisel's defection. "He's proud of the step I took coming here to America," Raisel said. "He's always backed me. Everyone in my family backed me up."