LOS ANGELES ANGELS (37-30)
at ATLANTA BRAVES (35-32)
First pitch: Sunday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Line: Atlanta -135, Los Angeles +125, Total: 7.5
The Angels and Braves finish off their three-game interleague battle in prime time on Sunday night.
Los Angeles has been putting together a solid season in 2014 and come into this series as winners of six of the past eight games. The Angels were impressive in their last series against the AL West-leading Athletics, taking 2-of-3 games while holding their division foe to just two runs over the victories. They were unable to finish off the sweep though, losing on Wednesday night by a score of 7-1 as they managed to go just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position while getting 10 total hits (4 doubles). OF Josh Hamilton (.381 BA) has gotten a hit in 7-of-9 games coming into this series since returning from the DL and is 12-for-36 (.333) with three doubles, a home run and 7 RBI in that time. Atlanta has lost its first-place standing in the NL East and is now tied with the Marlins for second after going 3-6 in the past nine games coming into this series. Most recently the Braves split a series with the Rockies in which they were outscored 29-21 over the four-game set. Their worst loss came on Thursday night as they were defeated 10-3 while managing just four hits in the loss. Twenty-five-year-old Tommy La Stella (.378) has been a great addition to the team, and is 15-for-36 (.417) with 4 RBI in his past 10 games played. For this matchup, LHP Hector Santiago (0-6, 4.15 ERA) will be going for his first victory of the season for L.A. as he faces Atlanta LHP Mike Minor (2-4, 4.31 ERA). Hitting the road hasnít been too difficult for the Angels this year as they have put up a 16-15 record in away games while the Braves are a solid 18-14 in their home contests coming into this series. These teams have not faced each other recently and last played a series in 2011 when the Los Angeles took 2-of-3 games in Anaheim.
Hector Santiago has not been stellar this season, but has pitched better than his winless record would suggest, as he is striking out 8.1 batters per nine innings and has allowed just two earned runs in his past 11 innings on the mound. Those innings were separated by a stint in the minors though, and he was recently recalled for his last start with fellow starter Tyler Skaggs hitting the DL; and Santiago was outstanding. He tossed six scoreless innings in the game against the Athletics while giving up just three hits and one walk while striking out eight in a no-decision. His big struggle this year has once again been his control, as he has allowed 19 walks in 43.1 innings (4.0 BB/9) while giving up six homers in that time (1.25 HR/9). Santiago has never faced the Braves in his career, but owns a 2.05 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 10 interleague games (3 starts). He will need to be careful when going up against OF Justin Upton, who is hitting .294 coming into this series while riding a seven-game hitting streak in which he has scored five runs. On the other hand, OF Jason Heyward (.254 BA) is just 4-for-23 with three strikeouts in the past five games leading up to this series. The Angelsí bullpen enters Friday with a record of 9-7 with a 4.20 ERA and 1.33 WHIP and converting 16-of-24 (67%) saves. Ernesto Frieri (4.18 ERA, 11 saves) had a rough start to the season as the closer, but has successfully closed out his past eight games and has an impressive 36:7 K/BB ratio in 28 innings this year.
Mike Minor has been solid in his eight starts while producing a quality start in six of those outings, but is prone to an occasional blowout as he allowed 11 hits and eight runs over four innings in his last outing against the Rockies. Overall on the year, he has struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings and been hit with some bad luck as batters are hitting .319 BABIP over his 48 innings. He will need to put his most recent outing behind him as he goes up against the Angels for this first time in his career and will certainly need to be cautious when going up against OF Mike Trout (.293 BA) who comes into this series with a seven-game hitting streak in which he is 8-for-27 (.296) with four doubles, a triple, one homer, 7 RBI and seven runs. Meanwhile, 1B Albert Pujols (.249) started the season out with an impressive power performance, but has just one long-ball in his past 14 contests while having only 3 RBI in his first 10 games of June. Atlantaís relievers have combined to go 13-7 with a 3.51 ERA and 1.34 WHIP coming into this series and have converted 22-of-29 (76%) save opportunities. Closer Craig Kimbrel (1.82 ERA, 18 saves) is one of the elite ninth-inning guys in the majors, but has blown three saves this year while striking out an incredible 45 batters in just 24.2 frames (16.4 K/9).