OAKLAND ATHLETICS (8-4)
at LOS ANGELES ANGELS (6-6)
First pitch: Monday, 10:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oakland -115, Los Angeles +105, Total: 8
An AL West rivalry kicks off in Anaheim on Monday night when the A's and Angels begin their first series of the 2014 season.
Oakland has taken an early lead in the AL West and will be looking to build on its divisional championship in 2013. The team has been on fire of late, winning five of its past six contests, all of which were played on the road. The Athletics' most recent series pitted them up against the Mariners, and after losing the first contest of the three-game set, their pitchers bounced back to limit Seattle to just one run on 10 hits over the last two games. 3B Josh Donaldson, a breakout star from last season, has hit a home run in each of the past two games, but is batting just .222 so far on the season. The Angels started off the season getting swept by the Mariners, but have since gone 6-3, including taking 2-of-3 games against the Mets over the weekend. They took down the rubber match in blowout fashion, winning 14-2 behind the strength of five homers, three of which went back-to-back-to-back in the first inning. Seven of the nine starters for Los Angeles recorded an RBI in the victory. Getting the call for the visiting Athletics in this one will be RHP Jesse Chavez (0-0, 1.38 ERA) who will be starting just his fifth game while throwing 189 career games in relief. LHP Hector Santiago (0-2, 7.71 ERA) will oppose Chavez and he has really had his troubles this year with eight earned runs allowed over just 9.1 frames. In the previous two seasons, Oakland holds a 21-17 overall record in this series, while the Angels came away victorious in three of the past four games last year. Playing in Anaheim has not given the Athletics any problems though, as they own a 12-7 record there since the beginning of 2012. Bettors should take notice of a few trends as L.A. is a subpar 13-20 (.394) at home when the total is 8.5 to 10 since the start of last year, but the team has also gone 113-93 (.549) as a home underdog of +100 to +150 since 1997.
Jesse Chavez may not have much major league experience as a starting pitcher, with only four starts at this level coming into this contest, but he seems to have caught on quickly. He allowed just three runs (2 ER) in his first two games (13 IP) this year, and was fantastic in his last start Wednesday when he faced the Twins on the road, allowing six hits and one run while striking out nine batters (0 walks) on his way to a second straight no-decision. Although he has not earned a win in these first two games, his team has come away with a victory each time and much of the reason should be attributed to his solid pitching. Chavez has yet to start against the Angels, but has faced them eight times in a relief role, throwing 8.1 innings with a 7.56 ERA (1.80 WHIP) while fanning eight batters with four walks. Both 1B Albert Pujols (3-for-4) and SS Erik Aybar (3-for-4, 1 double) have done well against him in limited at-bats, while 2B Howie Kendrick is 0-for-4 in the matchup with a strikeout. Oakland’s bullpen is great year-after-year, and so far this season it is showing much of the same ability, allowing just 11 runs in 38 innings (2.61 ERA) and converting three of its five save attempts. The Athletics employ a three-prong attack in a closer-by-committee situation with Luke Gregerson (1.35 ERA, 1 save), Sean Doolittle (1.17 ERA, 1 save) and Danny Otero (1.50 ERA) all available to come in and pitch the ninth inning.
Hector Santiago came over to the Angels in an offseason trade after pitching in 34 games (23 starts) as a member of the White Sox last year. In those games, Santiago had a 3.56 ERA (1.40 WHIP) while walking 4.4 batters per nine innings. He faced Seattle in each of his first two starts of this season with poor results, losing both games and showing a high walk rate once again, as he handed out six free passes in just 9.1 innings. He could struggle with this part of his game once again, as the Athletics have walked the third-most times (56) in the league so far. Santiago faced Oakland just once so far in his young career, earning a win in 6.1 frames while giving up two runs (1 ER) on four hits and striking out six batters with three walks. He also faced them once in relief and gave up five walks and one run in just 1.2 innings. OF Yoenis Cespedes has gone 3-for-4 with a home run against Santiago in his career, and he has momentum coming into this game after hitting a two-run homer in the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon’s contest. Los Angeles’ relievers have not been very successful on the season thus far, owning a 4.46 ERA while striking out an impressive 47 batters in 36.1 innings. They have been far worse in 20.1 innings at home though, with a 6.64 ERA (1.62 WHIP) and six home runs allowed while blowing their one save chance. Closer Ernesto Frieri (3.60 ERA, 1 save) has had only one save opportunity, but pitched in four other games and has already allowed two home runs in just five innings on the mound.