It’s time to head home for the Cleveland Indians, who will start an 11-game homestand when they welcome the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a four-game series that will begin on Thursday night. The Indians currently sit at 63-48 and are first in the AL central by 3 1/2 games over the Detroit Tigers. The Indians are coming off a series split against the Washington Nationals and are 4-6 in their last 10 games. The Angels are 49-64, which is good for the third-worst record in the American League, and the halos have been scuffling as of late, as they are 3-7 in their last 10 games and have lost six straight, with their most recent series being a sweep at the hands of the Cubs. The good news for the Indians is that the Detroit Tigers are finally starting to cool off, as they have gone 2-3 in the five games since their eight-game winning streak came to an end.
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Despite the Angels overall struggles this year, they have the fifth best team batting average in all of baseball at .267. The Angels offense starts and ends with star outfielder Mike Trout. Trout is one of the best if not the best player in baseball right now, and is putting up another year of MVP-type numbers (.312, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 17 SB, .973 OPS,) and is outstanding in the field, as he makes plays like this on a daily basis. The Angels are also benefiting another good year of power from DH Albert Pujols (.255, 21 HR, 86 RBI.) They are not getting Pujols’ power cheaply, though, as the Angels are paying Pujols $25 million in 2016 alone, according to Spotrac. The Angels also owe Pujols $140 million until 2021, and that’s 140 million going to a player who is currently in his year 36 season and has a history of injuries. Pujols can still produce, but his contract is still a financial albatross for the Angels.
The Angels have enjoyed a solid year from Yunel Escobar (.319, 3 HR, 32 RBI) in his first year in the bay area. Escobar has already burned the Indians this year, as he collected a walk-off hit when the Indians visited Los Angeles earlier this year. Longtime Angels C.J Cron (.278, 11 HR, 50 RBI,) and Kole Calhoun (.276, 11 HR, 52 RBI) have both had solid years thus far and Soft-hitting shortstops Andrelton Simmons (.283, 1 HR, 24 RBI,) and Gregorio Petit (.282, 2 HR, 15 RBI) have brought much-needed stability to the shortstop position for the Halos this year.
But while the Angels have offensive stability this year, the same can’t be said for their pitching. The Angels have a total team ERA of 4.43 with 24th in the MLB. One of the main reasons for their pitching struggles this is due to injuries, as pitchers Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards, Nick Tropeano, and C.J. Wilson are all out for the year due to injuries, and their closer Huston Street is currently on the 15-day DL. Jhoulys Chacin (3-7, 5.27 ERA) will make his first start since July when he will toe the rubber against the Indians on Thursday. The Angels acquired Chacin from the Braves in May for minor league pitcher Adam McCreery.
Chacin’s last start was July 1st against the Red Sox and it was a rough start, as he gave 12 hits and five runs in 4 2/3 innings. Chacin was demoted to the bullpen after that start and pitched well out the ‘pen, as he had a 2.55 ERA over 17 1/3 innings. The Angels will send out Tyler Skaggs (1-0, 2.04 ERA) to start Friday’s game in his fourth start since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Skaggs was 5-5 with 4.30 ERA through 18 starts in 2014 until he underwent surgery on August 13th, 2014. Skaggs missed all of 2015 due to the injury and is just starting to get his feet wet in the big leagues again.
Matt Shoemaker (6-12, 4.07 ERA) will start game three for the Angels. Shoemaker burst onto the scene in 2014, as he went 16-4 with 3.04 ERA in 2014 which led to him finishing second in the America League rookie of the year voting, as he was beat out by the Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu. Shoemaker has not been able to recapture that same magic, as he has gone 13-22 with a with a 4.42 ERA in the year and a half since. Shoemaker has pitched well as of late, as he has gone 4-7 with a 2.80 ERA in his last 103 innings. The Angels will start Jared Weaver (8-9, 5,19 ERA) for the series finale. Weaver has lost most of his velocity, as he fastball doesn’t even crack 90 MPH anymore, leaving Weaver to rely on location and deception. Weaver has had trouble with that lately, as he’s gone 2-3 with 5.08 ERA over his last seven starts.
The Angels bullpen has been average this year, as they have a 3.91 bullpen ERA, which is currently 19th in all of baseball. Despite that their bullpen does hold some solid arms, like Cam Bedrosian (2-0, 1.12 ERA.) Bedrosian will not be a factor in this series, though, as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. They also have another young solid arm in their ‘pen in the form of Deolis Guerra (2-0, 2.70 ERA.) Guerra also has great command, as he has only allowed two walks in 36 2/3 innings. J.C. Ramirez (2-3, 5.06 ERA) has pitched extremely well since the Angels claimed him off waivers from the Reds, as he is 1-0 with 3.00 ERA in 21 innings with the Angels.
The Indians will counter in game one with Corey Kluber (11-8, 3.16 ERA.) Kluber has been the most consistent starter for the Indians this year, and the starter who has not struggled recently for the Tribe, as he had a brilliant start his last time out, giving up two runs over eight innings to beat the New York Yankees. Carlos Carrasco (7-6, 3.17 ERA) will start game two, and it’s been a tale of two Carrascos over his last two starts. Carrasco had an abysmal start against the Twins, as he gave up eight runs over 3 2/3 innings and just looked lost on the mound. He was able to turn it around in his most recent start, as he went seven innings and only gave up three runs.
Mike Clevinger (0-1, 6.97) will make his fifth career start on Saturday when he goes head to head against Shoemaker. Length has been Clevinger’s biggest issue with the Indians, he has only gone five innings in two of his starts, and he wasn’t able to go five in his last start, he went 4 1/3 innings while giving up two runs against the Twins. Trevor Bauer (8-5, 3.88) will start Sunday’s finale in the hopes that he can build off his last start. Bauer was dominant his last time out, as beat Nationals ace Max Scherzer, going 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball with two walks and four strikeouts. If the Indians want to continue contending in 2016, Bauer needs to pitch well down the stretch for them.
The dog days of August are upon us and the Indians are still in first place, which is a great sign, The Tribe can’t take their foot off the gas, as The Tigers are still right on their heels. Luckily, the Indians are 31-20 at Progressive field, and they’ll hopefully build on that win column during their 11 game homestand.