So here we are. September 25th and despite the bizarre and sometimes borderline play of the 2015 version of the Los Angeles Angels, they find themselves in perfect position to take a run towards “Red” October. Also, I believe its safe to say that this past series against the Astros was the Halo’s best of the year. Sure, I understand they were playing fantastic baseball throughout July but considering the pressure of this latest 3 game set, combined with the way in which they won, I would argue that this has been their finest effort to date. Mike Trout went 5 for 11 in the series and also hit his 40th home run of the season, setting a new career high. He may have lost ground in the MVP race to Josh Donaldson in August, but Trout has certainly done a great job of reminding people of his expected dominance in September.
Entering Fridays’s final 6 game home-stand, the Angels sit 5 games back of the surprise Texas Rangers in the AL West, but are just 1.5 games back of the Astros for that second Wild Card position. In their final 6 home games, the Angels will play host to both the Mariners and Athletics. Meanwhile, the Astros begin their final series with the Rangers, a team who just swept them not more than a week ago. If the Astros can’t figure it out against their in state rivals, the way to playoffs could be paved for Halos. (Although, the Minnesota Twins have been playing some great baseball of late, and they are also in the thick of the wild card race.) But, lets not get too caught up thinking about potential scenarios, because the Angels still need to do their due diligence and win as many games as they can.
The streak will look to continue tonight as Garrett Richards toes the rubber against Vidal Nuno. Richards was magnificent in his last start, coming within just one out of a complete game. In fact, in Richards last 3 starts he has posted a 1-1 record with 3.38 ERA and 24 strikeouts over 21 innings pitched. If he can stay away from Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, both of whom are batting either at or above .300 for their careers against Richards, he will have no trouble shutting down this Mariner offense. On the other side, Nuno comes into this matchup looking to forget an awful performance against Texas his last time out. He will look to drop his season ERA from 3.30 and look to improve upon that win-loss record of 1-4.
Saturday’s contest looks to be a battle between pitching’s present against pitching’s future as King Felix Hernandez takes the mound against rookie Andrew Heaney. The dark horse ROY candidate has been everything the Angels had hoped and more. In his last start, which was a critical series against the Twins, Heaney only allowed 2 runs over 6 innings pitched. If the Angels are seriously making a run towards the playoffs, Heaney is going to have to be the guy, pitching deeper into games to give that bullpen a rest every once in awhile. On the other side of the ball, it’s no pushover for the Halos as Felix has silenced Angel bats this season. In 5 starts he is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA. However, I will say that Mike Trout has had solid success over Felix in his career, batting .349 in 63 at-bats with 4 home runs.
The Sunday matinee will feature a matchup between Jered Weaver and Hisashi Iwakuma. You’ll most likely remember Weaver’s last start against the Mariners as he beaned Kyle Seager for taking too long in the batters box. Weaver will look to lower that 4.86 ERA on the season and will probably be looking for some sort of action from Kyle Seager at the very least. Seager was quoted as saying Weaver “gave up on the team” in his aforementioned start against the M’s and I wouldn’t doubt that has turned into some sort of bulletin board material. Meanwhile, aside from all the drama, Hisashi Iwakuma is quietly putting together a very solid season. After missing more than 2 months with a lat injury, he has returned to the tune of a 7-2 record with a 2.66 ERA over his last 10, which includes a no-hitter. Iwakuma, like Hernandez, also pitches to similar success against the Halos as he’s posted a 2.25 ERA against them in 3 starts this season.