Coming into the year, one of the changes that were expected to take place was manager Mike Scioscia’s Los Angeles club no longer to be the dominant force in the AL West. Heavy personnel defections weakened the Angels roster at several positions and other teams in the division were showing improvement. Prognosticators looked to be accurate when the squad from Anaheim started 3-7, thanks to a lack of hitting and unstable bullpen.
The Angels (51-46, +2.2 units) at least started to hit as the season wore, but on May 30, their best hitter Kendry Morales broke a bone in his leg on a walk-off grand slam against Seattle and immediately television pundits declared the Scioscia’s squad DOA.
However, you don’t manage in big leagues as long as Scioscia has without being smart and the troops rallied and fought their way into second place in the division behind Texas (55-40, +1.1), who has played outstanding all year.
Since the baseball season is only in the latter stages of July, it sounds preposterous to call a series “extremely important”, yet that is exactly the case as the Angels travel to Arlington. Tonight opens a huge four-game series and both clubs have one aspect in mind – find a way to win three games.
For Los Angeles, they trail the Rangers by six games in the loss column (this is more important than games back, since everyone is scheduled to play 162-game season) and a series victory brings them within manageable four games, with over two months to play. Losing three of four creates an enormous burden for the Halos, being eight games back in the standings. To put this into perspective, if Texas would have 58-41 record come next Monday and they continued to play at the same pace the rest of the season, that would mean L.A. would have to close the regular season 44-17 to overtake Texas, a very unlikely scenario.
Game 1 of this battle has a distinguished pitching matchup with Jered Weaver (9-5, 3.16 ERA) facing Cliff Lee (8-4, 2.59, 0.937 WHIP). “It’s huge,” Weaver told the Angels’ official website. “We’ve been sitting four, five games back for a while now. … When you’re playing those guys, you pick up a game or lose one. Simple as that.”
Los Angeles is 10-4 in series openers most recently and will need Weaver to pitch superior baseball, which has been problematic against Texas. The 6’7 right-hander is 5-3 with 3.62 ERA vs. the Rangers, however pitching at Rangers Park has been a different story. In Weaver’s last six outings in Arlington he is 0-3, with a 6.17 ERA and his team has failed to win each contest. The Halos have lost five of six against winning teams when Weaver toes the rubber.
Cliff Lee will see the Angels for a second time this campaign, but for the first time wearing a Rangers uniform. The lefty is 6-3 (3.18) lifetime against Los Angeles and 21-7 when pitching on Thursday’s, (Team’s Record) which means he is supplying his team with a series clincher or opening game victory 75 percent of the time.
Betting on sports participants will find Texas as -169 money line favorites. Lee is remarkable 15-2 as a home favorite of -150 to -175 over the last three seasons. (Team’s Record) Nearly all online sports betting outlets have the total Un8 and the much-traveled Lee is 43-17 when the total is 7 to 8.5 over the same time span.
The veteran port-sider will be taking on Angels lineup that is hitting .329 while averaging 5.8 runs over its last six tries and is 7-1 vs. starting pitchers with a WHIP less than 1.15.
Weaver and other Los Angeles hurlers will have to confront Josh Hamilton, who has hit .394 in 18 July ballgames to raise his average to a Major League-leading .353. Hamilton is a serious Triple Crown threat being third in home runs (24) and fourth in runs batted in with 70. Since the All-Star break, the left-fielder is molten 13 for 30, a .433 average.
The Angels trail in the season series to the Rangers 3-2 and have dropped eight of past 11 at Texas.