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Series Preview: Angels @ Pirates (Battle for the Booty)

Angels will need all their heave-ho to take on the scalylwag Pirates this weekend and show them no quarter

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Avast ye!  Talk like a Pirate Day is not until September 19th, but we can practice this weekend because I'm sure everyone on the team from Pittsburgh says things like "shiver me timbers" and "Yo ho ho".

The Pirates are 2nd in the NL Central, mainly because they have the unfortunate luck of being in the same division as the behemoth known as those scurvy dogs, the Cubs.

Some fun facts are that Matt Joyce has a 1.091 OPS with 5HR and David Freese has 4HR and a .374 OBP.  Okay, less fun fact and more akin to voluntarily walking the plank.  Where was that 1.091 OPS with the Angels, Joyce, you blimey pain in the ass?  At least at third base we got an offensive upgrade.

On a side note, I recently saw the Pirates at Petco Park and was there early for batting practice.  I got to see Joyce and Freese warming up and despite my yelling "David" from the front row near his warm up spot, I couldn't get him to come over and sign a ball.  So enjoy Pittsburgh you scourge.  On a better note, Rick Sofield (third base coach) was super nice, let out an aaarghh, and brought me over a nearly new ball that he signed.  So all hope is not lost.

The Angels haven't played the Pirates since 2013 when they swept us off to Davey Jones' locker in 3 games.  There have only been 12 games total between these two teams with the and they are dead locked at 6-6 which makes this 3 game series a deciding factor in who gets the spoils of ultimate victory.

Pittsburgh has the 2nd best AVG and OBP in all of baseball, so our pitching staff has their work cut out for them.  They don't hit a lot of homeruns (#23 in MLB - Angels are #25), and their K rate is right in the middle.  Those bilge-sucking Pirates have some speed and have plundered the 4th most bases in MLB this year.  Our catchers and pitchers have been good at cutting down running games this year, so that will be an interesting melee.

This series also kicks off a 7 game stretch were the Angels will be out to sea and a 13 game stretch of nary a day's rest.

Biggest question: Can Angels hurlers out-duel a red-hot pirate offense and keep their bats at bay to win this series?

Game 1
Jered Weaver vs. Francisco Liriano
Frirday, June 3, 2016 @ 4:05PM

Weaver kicks off the series against a formidable foe.

Jered Weaver v. Pirates Current Lineup (Career)
59 2 14.3 .254
Francisco Liriano v. Angels Current Lineup (Career)
50 4 18.3 .160
Players/Stats to watch:
Matt Joyce & John Jaso v. Jered Weaver (Last 5 years)
29 3 0 0 .103
Albert Pujols v. Francisco Liriano (Last 5 years)
13 1 2 0 .077
Note: McCutchen, Freese, Cervelli, and Mercer were all pulled from last night's Pirates game, which also dragged on for a tiring 12 innings before they lost.  It's unclear if any of them will start Friday or any time this weekend.  From what I read, McCutchen seems to be the worst with an aggravated thumb injury and I'd bet he's out at least a game or two.  The other three were hit by pitches and may play tonight or tomorrow unless the swelling, etc. is really bad.
There's not much to speak of in current Angels players facing Liriano.  It's either been a tale of limited at bats, or not much hitting for those who have faced him.  Johnny G is 2 for 7.  Mike Trout is 2 for 8.  Pujols and Escobar have 24 combined at bats and only 3 hits.  Liriano hasn't been spectacular this year and he's given up 5 and 8 runs in two of his last 5 starts.  However, he's given up 2 or less runs in 5 of his 10 starts this year, so it's hard to tell what we are going to get.  The Angels are not as good at hitting left handed pitchers so that could pose a problem for them.
Weaver has been shut down against former Angel Matt Joyce and John Jaso.  It's hard to ever count him out, because when you do, he comes back and throws 7 innings of 2 or 3 run ball.  Like Liriano, Weaver has been hit or miss, but he does have 5 starts this year where he's given up 3 or less runs.
VERDICT: Angels will need run support this game, and will need to hope the crappy version of Liriano shows up.  It may benefit Weaver if all 4 injured players from last night are out one more game.
Game 2
Nick Tropeano vs. Jeff Locke
Saturday, June 4, 2016 @ 1:05PM

Tropeano hasn't faced any of the current Pirates in his short career.

Jeff Locke v. Angels Current Roster (Career)
12 0 .000 .000 25 0
Players/Stats to watch:

Not many current Angels have faced Locke before, aside from Escobar and Robinson who are hitless against him. He is another lefty, and as previously mentioned, the Angels hit much better off righties.  Locke is coming off a complete game shutout against Miami where he only allowed 3 hits, threw 105 pitches, and only stuck out 1.  He has had a pretty low K rate all year (and most of his career) and does give up some homeruns once in a while.  He does induce a pretty high rate of ground balls which is not great for the league leaders in GIDP.
No one on the current Pirates rosters has faced Tropeano before.  Trop had a bit of a mistep his last time out giveing up 4ER in 5 IP, but the two starts before he only gave up 1 ER in 13.2 IP.  It's a good sign that he's been going deeper into games.  His strand rate (88.4%) is the highest in the majors right now.  Normally that kind of strand rate is hard to maintain but he's been doing it (so has Jon Lester and Jake Arrietta who are 2nd and 3rd and I hear those guys are pretty good).  He pitches really well in high leverage situations and when men are in scoring position.  In other words - he does well under pressure which helps keep that strand rate so high.  He definitely needs to get ahead in counts though to be successful since his BAA is horrible on 2-0, 3-0, and 3-1 counts.
VERDICT: Tropeano is pitching well this year and even better on the road.  Locke is coming off a great complete game shutout and I'd like to play the odds and say that isn't going to happen twice in a row, so I put the edge on the Angels here.

Game 3
Jhoulys Chacin vs. Gerrit Cole
Sunday, June 5, 2016 @10:35AM

Finally - a righty!  Too bad it's Gerrit Cole

Gerrit Cole v. Anaheim Angels (Career)
17 3 1 36.8 .176
Jhoulys Chacin v. Anaheim Angels (Career)
30 7 1 11.1 .233
Players/Stats to watch:
Andrew McCutchen v. Jhoulys Chacin (Last 5 years)
12 4 4 1 .333
Cole has struck out every Angels (at least once) he's faced except for Escobar.  That includes Nava, Pennington, Pujols, Robinson, Ryan, Simmons, Soto, and Trout.  Of course, a bunch of those guys aren't playing this weekend.  Cole has been top notch this year and has given up 0 runs in 3 games, 1 run in two games, and 3 or less in all of the rest except for when he gave up 5 against the Cubs.  He typically doesn't last less than 6 IP, and he doesn't give up a lot of homeruns.  If there is any silver lining to facing their ace in game 3, it's that Cole has been better on the road - and we get to face him at home.
Chacin was amazing against Detroit when he pitched a complete game, allowing just one run.  He was perfect for much of the game.  He's gone 6+ innings in 3 of his 4 Angels starts.  He's going to need that good stuff to cut through the tough Pirate's lineup.  He's had a tough time against McCutchen (assuming he plays), but has done well in limited at bats against others on the Pirates roster.
VERDICT: Cole has been pitching too well to not call this one for the Pirates.  If all the injured Pirates sit out this game and Cole somehow blows up, then we have a chance.
OVERALL VERDICT: The Angels needs to win games 1 and 2 to take this series.  Game 3 will be a tough one.  Weaver has his work cut out for him in game 1 and game 2 looks like our best odds at a win.  Taking this series is going to require a lot of Angels mojo.