LOS ANGELES ANGELS
at OAKLAND ATHLETICS
First pitch: Sunday, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics battle it out for AL West supremacy when they square off in a late-season matchup on Sunday night.
The Angels have been one of the hottest teams in the league and they have grabbed the division lead with wins in nine of 11 games going into Friday. While this is impressive, the teams that they have been playing (Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies) all reside in last place in their respective divisions. L.A.ís pitching has been amazing during this timeframe, allowing a meager 2.8 runs per game and the club gave up a total of eight runs to the Red Sox in the most recent series; a four-game sweep which ended on Thursday with a 2-0 victory. Much of the success has come from an unlikely source, as OF Kole Calhoun (.293 BA) has gone 16-for-41 (.390) with five doubles, two home runs, 11 RBI and seven runs over his past 10 games played. Oakland was baseballís top team for a majority of the season before this recent run by Los Angeles and the team has gone in the opposite direction of its division foe with losses in eight of the past 10 games coming into this series. The Athletics usually potent offense, which leads the league in runs (608) through Thursday, has scored only 2.4 runs per game in those eight defeats and despite plating five runs on six hits on Wednesday against the Mets, they suffered an 8-5 loss. In the contest they were a mere 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position, while 1B Brandon Moss (.249 BA) was 0-for-3 and has gone 2-for-16 (.125) with seven strikeouts and six walks over his past five games. Getting the call to toe the rubber for Los Angeles in this one will be veteran RHP Jered Weaver (13-7, 3.70 ERA) as he matches up against LHP Scott Kazmir (14-5, 2.73 ERA) of the Athletics. The Angles have won six of their past seven road games coming into this series, bringing their overall record to 35-27 (.565) away from home, while Oakland is a tremendous 41-22 (.667) when defending its home field. The rivalry between these two clubs has been heating up over the past three seasons, and in that time, the Athletics hold a 27-20 edge (6-3 in 2014) against their rivals, including a 12-10 mark at home.
Jered Weaver has continued to be an effective pitcher for Los Angeles despite a well-documented drop in his velocity, as his fastball is averaging a woeful 86.6 MPH. While his numbers are solid, there is some concern, as his ERA has risen in each of the past four seasons as he has seen his strikeout rate drop, while both his walk rate and HR rate have gone up. No one should expect the shutdown pitcher of the past to be on the mound, but he is a solid bet to give the team a quality start while averaging just over six innings per start in his past eight outings. The Angels have also come away with victories in eight of his past 10 starts while he is personally 5-1 in that timeframe. Weaver was not at his best his last time out when he earned a no-decision. He threw 5.1 innings in which he allowed three runs on seven hits with a single strikeout and four walks. Weaver has faced the Athletics 28 times in his career, posting an 11-9 record with a 2.53 ERA and 1.09 WHIP, but has lost both his starts against them this season while allowing nine runs on 17 hits in 11.1 frames. With seven hits in 19 at-bats (.368) against Weaver, 2B Eric Sogard has had the most success amongst the offensive players on Oakland. Meanwhile, most of the other players have been horrible in the matchup, especially OF Coco Crisp (10-for-57, 4 doubles, 11 strikeouts), 3B Josh Donaldson (1-for-11), 1B Brandon Moss (2-for-13, 5 strikeouts) and C John Jaso (1-for-17). Coming into this series, the Angelsí bullpen is 24-16 (.600) with a 3.38 ERA and 1.19 WHIP while saving 38-of-53 (72%) contests. Huston Street (1.15 ERA, 34 saves) was a big addition for the team, and is 10-for-11 in saves with his new club while posting a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings of work.
Scott Kazmir is in the midst of a career year at the age of 30, as he has career-best marks in ERA, WHIP and BB/9 while already having more wins this year (14) than any other of his seven full seasons as a starter. He has combated a falling strikeout rate with a low 2.1 BB/9 and has kept the ball in the park (0.75 HR/9) pretty well. Luck has been on Kazmir's side though, as he has left 78.8% of batters on base while they are hitting .267 BABIP against him. Kazmir has been on a solid run of late, going at least six innings in seven of his past eight outings in which he has allowed three or fewer runs six times. When taking on the Mets in his last start, the lefty gave up one run on four hits and three walks over six innings while striking out six batters and earning a win. Heís faced his former team just five times, going 2-3 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, and gave up five runs on six hits over three innings in his one start against them this year. Newly acquired 2B Gordon Beckham has gone 3-for-8 with three doubles against Kazmir, while OF Josh Hamilton has a double, homer and 4 RBI in the matchup but is only 4-for-16 (.250) overall. Oaklandís bullpen has been one of the best in the majors this year, going 21-15 (.583) with a 2.82 ERA and 1.07 WHIP, and is 26-for-39 (67%) in save opportunities entering Friday. Closer Sean Doolittle (2.35 ERA, 18 saves) has an unbelievable 77:4 K/BB ratio in 53.2 innings while successfully saving 18-of-21 games this season.