What to Watch for In Angels-Pirates Series

Updated: June 3, 2016

This weekend the Angels travel to Pittsburgh for a three game interleague series with the Pirates.  The Angels are currently 7 games out of the American League West lead with a 24-29 record and even though the Pirates are 8.5 games out in the National League Central, their 29-24 record as of Thursday puts them in the second wild card spot.  

This weekend is important for the Angels because losing the series could sink the Halos deeper into the American League West cellar and igniting talks of blowing up the team at the August 31st trade deadline.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at three things to watch for in this series:

  1. The Pirates are scheduled to start two left handed pitchers.

The Angels already have a right handed heavy lineup but with the Pirates putting out two lefties in the series, Francisco Liriano (4-4) and Jeff Locke (4-3), Scioscia may still need to tweak the lineup a bit.  One switch may be starting Shane Robinson in left in place of Rafael Ortega, but this is only if Scioscia goes with the tradition righty-lefty matchup.  The left handed hitting Ortega actually has a better average against lefties than Robinson, hitting southpaws .273 versus Robinson’s .176.  Interestingly, the Angels team as a whole have hit for a better average in the lefty-lefty matchup this year putting up a .279 average in 61 at bats.  Compare that to a .229 average in 388 at bats when a right handed batter is going against a left handed pitcher.  Scioscia may have to think twice when filling out his lineup card Friday and Saturday.

  1. Jered Weaver may not give a homerun in his start.

Jered Weaver has done a remarkable job this year considering he has a fastball hovering around 85 mph (at best). The fact that he has fought and scratched out four wins once again proves that Weaver takes pride in his craft and in himself every game he plays and every pitch he throws.  Unfortunately, this year Weaver has be susceptible to giving up the long ball.  In 58.1 innings, Weaver has given up 12 home runs which is an average of 1.9 bombs a game. Astonishingly this is only good enough for second on the team thanks to Hector Santiago who is giving up 2.o home runs a game.  If Weaver (4-4) is able to stay healthy and pitch his career average of 215 innings, he is on pace to give up 44 home runs!

Now for the good news.

When Weaver takes the mound at PNC Park on Friday, he may be comforted by the fact that the Pirates’ home has given up the third fewest home runs in the majors this season.  This means that if Weaver can keep the ball in the park and let his defense do some work, the Angels have a good chance of coming out of the game with a win.

  1.  Only two Angels players have significant experience playing the Pirates, let alone in PNC Park.

Friday night will mark only the 13th time that these two clubs have faced each other.  With that being said, there are only a few players on the Angels that have significant, if any, experience playing the Pirates.  Luckily for the Angels, the two players with the most experience have had success hitting against the Bucs.  Yunel Escobar, who could be back from injury on Friday, is hitting .305 in 118 at bats against Pittsburgh.  These at bats mostly come from the days when he was playing for Atlanta and Washington.  

The other Angel who happens to have the greatest amount of at bats against the Pirates is long time Cardinal Albert Pujols.  In his 11 seasons playing for St. Louis, Albert was able to hit .360/.446/.674 in 645 at bats against Pittsburgh.  Even though his slash line is nowhere near that this year, Albert’s 36 RBIs is second on the team only to Mike Trout which shows that he can still be The Machine when the team needs him to be and can put the ball into play with runners on base.

Although this series against the Pirates may be happening in early June, it is important for the Angels to at least win the series to avoid seeing their already slim wild card chances go floating down the Allegheny River.

Stats courtesty of baseball-reference.com

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