The Angels hold on to a wild card spot by the slimmest of margins with 5 teams within 2.5 games of taking their spot. It’s a tight race for sure and with 43 game left, every win matters. Even a split here would be okay - just like the Angels did back in July at the Big A. Harper’s 4 for 4 showing really was key to that win, and this time the Angels play the Nationals with Harper on the DL.
The Nationals are still a very formidable team without Harper in the lineup. Good ole Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind, Wilmer Difo, and Adrian Sanchez are all hitting over .300 the past month, with Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, and Ryan Zimmerman all not far behind that and all add some pop.
In the second half, the Nationals have only scored 8 more runs than the Angels (142-134) but have hit 48 homers to the Angels 33. The Nats have more home run power, but the Angels rule the base paths (23 steals to 10). Offensively, the teams are fairly evenly matched - especially with the subtraction of Harper.
Getting to the Nationals starters early used to be key since their bullpen had struggled a bit this year. But they acquired Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson who have been pretty great for them (Madson hasn’t allowed a run yet and has struck out 17 to 1 walk).
This will be a tough short series with a formidable pitcher for the Nats in game 1, and a very un-formidable Angels pitcher in game 2.
Question: Can the Angels continue their hot streak and beat a Nationals team that has won 8 of their last 11?
Tyler Skaggs v. Gio Gonzalez
Tuesday, August 15th @ 4:05PM
Pitcher vs. Batters
Tyler Skaggs hasn’t seen many of the Nationals batters in his career, and he’s still abit of an unknown this season. He is coming off a great start (his second since returning from a long DL stint) where he threw 6.1 scoreless innings against the Mariners. His start may be key taking this game against a foe who has been very solid on the mound this year.
Last month, the Angels knocked Gonzalez around a bit for 4 runs in 5.2 innings, and handed him the loss. Cron hit a 2-run homer off Gonzalez in that game. This was the ONLY game Gonzalez allowed more than 3 runs dating all the way back to May 19th and in fact, it’s only happened 3 times this year. Gonzalez and his 2.59 ERA have been tough to beat this year. Since that Angels game, he’s allowed just 3 runs in his last 22 innings and 3 starts. In about half of Gonzalez’s starts, he’s received 3 or fewer runs in support.
Verdict: Gonzalez is one of the top pitchers in the NL this year and the Angels will look to the Braves as the only team who has beat him twice this season.
Ricky Nolasco v. Tanner Roark
Wednesday, August 16th @ 10:05AM
Pitcher vs. Batters
There is no way around it - Nolasco has been terrible in the second half this season (and really most of the year). In 4 of his lat 7 starts he’s allowed 5 or more runs. Perhaps his saving grace in this game is that Stephen Drew and Bryce Harper have 5 of the 6 home runs he has given up against this roster and they are both on the DL.
Tanner Roark has a 4.74 ERA this season but has managed to notch 9 wins thanks to a good amount of run support. Since the start of July, he’s been better and has only allowed more than 3 runs once. He has a 3.33 ERA since July 8th and has won 4 of his last 5 starts. He hasn’t faced the Angels since April of 2014 when JB Shuck, Mike Trout, and Howie Kendrick all went 2 for 5 in that game. Roark gave up zero runs in 6.2 innings of work that day.
Verdict: This one leans Nationals thanks to how Nolasco has been pitching but hopefully he can squeeze out a half way decent performance and let the offense and bullpen do the rest.
Overall Verdict: Anything can happen so tough series to call. The Angels NEED to take at least one of these games and a two game sweep would be huge.