Angels @ Dodgers August 6, 2021: Freeway Series Begins

After splitting the two game series with the Houston Astros (65-44), the Dodgers (65-44) now trail the San Francisco Giants (69-40) by four games with just 53 games to go. The Angels (55-54) are six games out of the second wild card spot, and are looking to make up some ground with a Mike Trout return around the corner. The left-handed Patrick Sandoval will be on the mound for the Angels tonight, up against David Price, making his eighth start of the season.

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7:10 PM Los Angeles
2B Fletcher RF Betts
1B Gosselin 3B Turner
LF Upton 2B Muncy (L)
C Stassi 1B Pujols
RF Adell SS Seager (L)
SS Iglesias CF Taylor
CF Lagares LF Pollock
P Sandoval (L) C Barnes
3B Mayfield P Price (L)

The Angels are seventh in baseball in wRC+ against left-handed pitching at 109, with a .757 OPS. Meanwhile, this is the Dodgers’ relative weakness, sitting 12th in wRC+ at 106. The Angels are led by Shohei Ohtani, with a 170 wRC+, and a 1.015 OPS, with 37 home runs. He still manages to crush left-handed pitching, with a 162 wRC+ and a .986 OPS against them. The Angels also feature pure contact hitter, David Fletcher, with a .898 OPS against left-handed pitching while hitting .368 against them. He’s also hitting .348 overall since the end of May, and .368 over his last 45 games. 

The Dodgers also feature a few crushers against left-handed pitching, among them being Max Muncy (180 wRC+, 1.038 OPS), Chris Taylor (171 wRC+, 1.013 OPS), and former Angel Albert Pujols (161 wRC+, .976 OPS). Mookie Betts (151 wRC+) and AJ Pollock (143 wRC+) also crush lefties. Trea Turner, who hopes to be joining the team very soon, is one of the best in all of baseball against left-handed pitching as well, with a 192 wRC+ and a 1.109 OPS while hitting .406.

Anyways, both offenses are great. The Dodgers are significantly better than the Angels while they’re missing Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Jared Walsh, but as we’ve seen from the team, that doesn’t necessarily equal wins. With Shohei Ohtani pitching two days ago, luckily the Dodgers batters won’t have to face him on the mound this weekend as he’s one of the pitchers in baseball. Unfortunately, the pitching staff will still have to face the frontrunner for American League MVP. The good news for Price is that Ohtani won’t be starting today as he’s predominantly the designated hitter.

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Here’s how Price and Sandoval matchup.

Price threw one scoreless inning a handful of days ago against Arizona, but prior to that his last four appearances have all been as a starter. In that stretch he has a 3.71 ERA, 4.40 FIP, and a 1.18 WHIP. He had two solid starts to begin that stretch, but his last two have been mediocre, allowing three earned runs in each, over a total of ten innings. He now has a 3.47 ERA and a 3.42 FIP as a starter over 23.1 innings, which is very respectable. He has pretty strong reverse splits this season, allowing an .849 OPS to left-handed batters, compared to .718 against right-handed batters. His season high in pitches is currently 74, coming two starts ago, so the team would likely shoot for five innings of work from him, with anything more being a bonus.

Last time out, Sandoval allowed one run on four hits and six walks over 5.2 innings, while striking out six. Prior to that, he had the best start of his career, flirting with a no hitter against the Twins. He went a total of 8.2 innings, allowing one run on one hit and one walk while striking out thirteen. That’s now just a 1.26 ERA over his last two starts. He’s down to a 3.09 ERA, 3.53 FIP, and a 1.11 WHIP over his last twelve starts. It seems like with the 24 year-old lefty, the Angels may have found a solid piece in their rotation for years to come. He has a deep repertoire, featuring a fastball, sinker, slider, and a nasty changeup that he’s been throwing roughly 30% of the time. He’s also been a nightmare for left-handed batters, allowing just a .141 batting average and a .478 OPS on the year, with a 0.63 WHIP and 31.4% strikeout rate. The Dodgers’ bats will likely need to show up against a surging Sandoval.

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Interesting stuff here, especially considering how much better the Dodgers have been over the last five years.

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Obviously, Betts is back in right field, while Cody Bellinger is the odd man out. Possibly a sign to come with Trea Turner on his way? Hard to find any way to get Bellinger a start against left-handed pitching once Turner arrives. The team is four games out of first in the NL West, they don’t necessarily have time to let a guy hitting .170 start every single day.

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Getting Clayton Kershaw back at some point is definitely better than never.

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First pitch is at 7:10 PM PDT on SNLA.

About Allan Yamashige

Just a guy living in Southern California, having a good time writing about baseball. Hated baseball practice as a kid, but writing about it rules. Thanks for reading!