Los Angeles Angels
As this final series of the regular season commences, few in Marinerdom really care who the opposition is; all the energy is just on winning games and earning a Wild Card berth. But someone has to be the opposition, and it's the Angels, the team they just saw a week ago in Anaheim.
The M's have handled most of their divisional rivals quite well this year—the division-winning Astros the exception—going 46-27 against the AL West, including 10-6 vs. the Halos (4-2 at TMP). They're red-hot, having closed out the month of September at 18-8 and posting a positive run differential for the month (+9), the only time they've done that since April, when they were +1. They'll be running out their top pitchers against pot luck on the Angels' side of things. And the Halos remain battered and bruised, with to players still out on the injured list and two-way star Shohei Ohtani shut down as a pitcher. So, you know, on paper it looks good for the home crowd.
Among the Angels' regulars, only all-Star first baseman Jared Walsh is hitting much, posting a .326/.390/.483 line in September. Ohtani has been getting aboard, but mostly via the walk, which makes sense since teams will pitch around him. No one else is getting it done offensively. Second baseman David Fletcher saw his average drop 30 points over the last month; center fielder Brandon Marsh has reminded no one of the guy he's filling in for, Mike Trout, with his .242 September; one-time Mariner Jack Mayfield is similarly holding down Anthony Rendon's third base position with anemic production, batting all of .211 last month.
On the mound, the Halos are going with starting pitchers José Suarez and Jhonathan Díaz Friday and Saturday; Sunday would have been Ohtani's spot, but now that's TBD. Suarez has been inconsistent all season, capable of turning in gems like his complete-game win over Texas last month and of being run out of a game early, evidenced by four starts in which he failed to last beyond the fourth inning. The Mariners dealt him a no-decision a week ago in his last start, scoring four runs off him in five innings. Díaz is a raw rookie who made his big-league debut September 17th with a brief start that saw him throw 50 pitches before getting bounced in the second inning against the A's; his one other appearance was in long relief against the Mariners last Saturday in the Angels' blowout 14-1 trouncing of the M's, the only time Seattle has lost in the last two weeks.
The back end of the Angel bullpen is pretty good, with closer Raisel Iglesias holding 33 saves and a sub-1.000 WHIP for the season. He's supported by ex-Mariner Steve Cishek and Mike Mayers, both of whom have had solid years. After that it's a lot rockier; with five relievers on the injured list, it's been a mix-and-match of table scraps in the Halo relief corps, with right-hander Austin Warren the only one who's put up decent numbers (1.89 ERA in 19 innings).
Friday night, Seattle will start Marco Gonzales, who last saw the Angels Sunday afternoon and beat them handily; since the All-Star break, Marco has been brilliant, going 9-0 with a 2.68 ERA and holding batters to a .205 average. Chris Flexen will go for his fourth consecutive win on Saturday, while Sunday afternoon's season finale will feature Tyler Anderson looking for revenge after the Angels lit him up a week ago.
|vs. AL West||27-46|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
.333/.386/.436, 4 2B, 7 RBI
.289/.364/.342, 2 RBI
.290/.511/.613, 5 XBH, 5 RBI
.031/.061/.031, 3 GDP, 3 Ks
.138/.265/.345, 10 Ks
.235/.308/.324, 2 GDP, 8 Ks
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|9/26/21||SEA 5, LAA 1|
|9/25/21||LAA 14, SEA 1|
|9/24/21||SEA6, LAA 5|
|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|
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.
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."