On the back of an excellent all-around pitching performance by José Suárez and their bullpen, the Angels dealt a crushing blow to the playoff hopes of the Mariners on Friday night. Just a day later, the Halos have a chance to put the final nail in Seattle’s coffin themselves, as they can eliminate their division rivals with another win here on Saturday.
In their quest to play the role of ultimate spoiler, the Angels will send Jhonathan Díaz to the hill fresh off a masterful performance against this same Seattle team. The rookie took the ball in relief last Saturday after Jaime Barría left his start after just two innings with what was later revealed to be a right shoulder impingement, and he spun seven innings of one-run ball in what was just his second big-league outing. Díaz allowed just three hits in that one and walked just one while striking out four Mariners hitters, earning his first career win in the process.
During that outing, Diaz found great success with his changeup. It was his most-thrown pitch by a pretty good amount (he threw it 44 percent of the time, with the next highest being at just 30 percent), and he earned eight called strikes with it while allowing just an 84.3 mph average exit velocity on the nine balls in play against it. The Mariners looked uncomfortable against it all night, and if Diaz can re-establish it against them once again on Saturday, it would go a long way toward having another successful outing.
On the other side, the Mariners counter with Chris Flexen, who had been perhaps their best starting pitcher for the majority of this season. Flexen returned to the majors this year after spending the 2020 season in the KBO, and he has pitched very nicely to the tune of a 3.67 ERA in 30 starts.
Flexen has started against the Angels three times this year, with two of them coming within a week’s span of each other. The first of these starts came all the way back on April 30, when the Halos touched him up four three earned runs in four innings pitched. The lineup in that game is vastly different to the one that they’re running out today, however, as the only holdovers present are David Fletcher, Shohei Ohtani (who actually homered off of Flexen) and Jared Walsh.
The two most recent times that the Angels have faced Flexen did not go as well as the first, though, as he combined to spin 14 innings of one-run ball between two starts on July 10 and 16. His success in those games came primarily due to an extremely passive approach by the Halo bats, as he earned a whopping 32 called strikes in those games, including 16 with his four-seam fastball. The Angels might need to be more aggressive this time around if they want to avoid the same fate as before, as he took advantage of their patience by jumping ahead in counts over and over again.
Angels News and Notes
- Juan Lagares exited yesterday’s game after injuring his back trying to make a play against the wall in the 7th inning, and he is not in today’s starting lineup as a result. He might be able to come in as a defensive replacement, but Jose Rojas will take his place in right field to start the game.
- Joe Maddon announced yesterday that Reid Detmers will start tomorrow’s season finale. He will be on a pitch limit of around 75 in what is just his second appearance since returning from a month-long COVID related absence.