Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com (April 17, 2018 – Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)
The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of one of the toughest stretches of the season and are now set to face the Los Angeles Angels. The Red Sox dominated the Angels in their April meeting, sweeping the three-game series by a combined 27-3 score. Still, the Angels are a dangerous team, and the Red Sox can’t afford to overlook Los Angeles. Without further ado, here is the Boston Red Sox vs Los Angeles Angels series preview.
Boston Red Sox vs Los Angeles Angels Series Preview
Any conversation about the Angels begins and ends with Mike Trout. The star center fielder is the best player in baseball and is arguably in the midst of his best season yet. Through 77 games, Trout is posting an insane .327/.464/.669 slash line with 23 home runs and a 6.2 fWAR. He’s been borderline unstoppable in June, hitting .403/.523/.687 with an otherworldly 224 wRC+.
Some of this performance is unsustainable, as Trout has an insanely high .489 BABIP in June. Still, Trout is an unbelievable player and the MVP frontrunner thus far in the season. The Red Sox need to do everything in their power to limit Trout’s impact on the game.
The Angels suffered a massive loss when Shohei Ohtani suffered an elbow injury a few weeks back. While the Angels are hopeful Ohtani can return for 2018, he certainly won’t be back for this series. Through 43 games, Ohtani was slashing .289/.372/.535 with a 151 wRC+, while also recording a 3.10 ERA and a 3.22 FIP in nine starts. Quite frankly, he was exactly as advertised.
Los Angeles has struggled to replace Ohtani’s production in both the lineup and the rotation. Albert Pujols is now the primary DH, but his best days are clearly behind. The sure-fire Hall of Famer is hitting a pedestrian .254/.288/.421 with a wRC+ of 94. He’s not hurting the team by any means, but he’s not close to matching Ohtani’s production.
Game One: David Price vs John Lamb
The Red Sox should have no trouble against career journeyman John Lamb. Lamb has bounced between the majors and minors since 2015, and there’s not much evidence to suggest he belongs in the majors. Lamb has only made two starts this season, going for a combined 8.1 innings and allowing a 5.40 ERA and a 6.34 FIP.
While his 2018 sample is clearly small, his career numbers don’t sing a better tune. In 128 major league innings, Lamb is allowing a .291/.365/.511 slash line, 6.12 ERA, and a 5.01 FIP. He strikes out a slightly below average 8.8 batters per nine innings and walks a slightly above average 3.7 batters per nine. Altogether, he’s a fringe major leaguer that probably belongs in the minors. The Red Sox should have no problem putting up runs against this guy.
David Price, on the other hand, is in the midst of a solid stretch of pitching. Since May 17th, Price has a 2.80 ERA with a 3.17 FIP while striking out 25.1% of the batters he faced. In his last start against the Minnesota Twins, Price went six innings while allowing three runs. This should be an easy win for the Red Sox
Game Two: Andrew Heaney vs Rick Porcello
While the Red Sox should take the first game pretty handily, Game Two should be more of a battle. Andrew Heaney is in the midst of a solid season, throwing to the tune of a 3.43 ERA, 3.54 FIP, and an 8.24 K/9 through 14 starts.
Heaney is a three-pitch pitcher, utilizing a fastball, slider, and changeup. His fastball isn’t amazing, as the average velocity is just 92 miles per hour. He makes up for that with a 79 mph slider and an 83 mph changeup. The slider has great movement, and the changeup dies at the last second, and both pitches compliment his fastball perfectly.
Rick Porcello is coming off of arguably the best game of his season. In danger of being swept by the Twins, Porcello tossed an absolute gem in the series finale. The righty threw seven innings of scoreless ball, striking out five while walking just one on 97 pitches. If Porcello can duplicate that type of performance, then the Sox should win handily. Expect a close game, but also expect the Red Sox to pull it out in the end.
Game Three: Jaime Barria vs Steven Wright
2018 is the first year in the majors for Jaime Barria, and he’s making the most of it. Through his first nine major league starts, Barria owns an impressive 3.57 ERA. However, his FIP sits at a less impressive 4.62, which suggests he’s been getting lucky in some of his starts.
The peripherals back this up. Barria has a below average K/9 of 7.35, and a 1.6 HR/9 rate. Additionally, his ground ball rate is just 39%, and he’s only allowing soft contact 16.1% of the time. All of these factors imply that Barria’s strong start is somewhat unsustainable. Hopefully, the Red Sox can take advantage of this.
Nobody really knows what to expect for Steven Wright entering this game. Knuckleballers are notoriously impossible to predict, as the pitch is such a weird offering. After allowing just one earned run through three starts, Wright allowed 10 in just 3.1 innings of work against the Mariners. It’s anyone’s guess which Steven Wright shows up against the Angels. The Red Sox probably won’t muster up another 14-run game, so it better be the good one.
There’s no overstating how much losing Ohtani hurts the Angels. Without him, the Angels are relying on Trout to win every game almost by himself. He’s certainly good enough to do that, but the Red Sox should have the upper hand. Look for the Red Sox to win at least two of three, and perhaps pull off the sweep should the good Steven Wright show up.