Game Preview 4/5/11: Angels @ Rays – A Must Win Series….Already?


 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  (1-3) @ Tampa Bay Rays  (0-3)

Pitching Probables: LAA – Jered Weaver (1-0, 0.00 ERA)  TB – Jeff Niemann (0-0, -.– ERA)

Game Info: 3:40 PM PT; TV – KCOP; Radio – KLAA 830 AM


Well, here we are to start the season off, once again at 1-3. The Angels MUST win two game series, we can’t risk going home 2-4 or 1-5, we need to be at .500 if we want to keep up with a Rangers team red hot out of the gate. Once again, these bullpen atrocities are starting the team off on the wrong foot. Despite the back to back to back bullpen blunders, there are a few things that one could get excited about regarding the Angels. For one, all that talk about Howie Kendrick “finding himself” seem to be true, and he’s looking like that batting champ we were all promised. Either he’s gotten off to a very hot start, or he’s finding his groove, lets just hope its the latter. The outfield is looking as spectacular as we could have hoped, save for the game saving catch Wells missed on Sunday. Wells isn’t to blame though, Fraudney shouldn’t have put the team in such a sensitive situation. Lets just pray that these bright spots continue to shine, we’re definitely going to need to bring our A++ game to face this completely new and improved Rays.

Game Matchup: Just kidding, the Angels could stroll through Tampa with what they brought the first series and come out with a win. The offense is starved of any real production, they only scored 1 run each of the past three games, and with Longoria out of the lineup this would be the perfect time to build some team confidence back up. Not to mention the fact that the Orioles put on their best Texas Rangers impression and swept the Rays, whatever naive confidence the Rays had coming into the season is surely gone. The Rays are going to attempt to do their part to carry the team, and most likely strain themselves into turning in a mediocre performance. Remember how Hunter looked near the end of last season, straining himself too hard to carry the team? That’s what every player in the Rays offense is going to look like, especially with the loss of any real threat the Rays had following the loss of Evan Longoria. Facing a terribly depleted offense is EXACTLY what this bullpen needs, a terribly depleted offense to feed on and gain some much needed confidence. We all know each reliever on this team is capable of great things (except Rodney, he’s well beyond repair), all they need is a little shot of some confidence to bring that potential to reality. That confidence is waiting for you in Tampa, show em who’s boss. 

On the offensive side, today is going to look like a televised batting practice. The Angels have always been prone to offensive outbursts when facing Niemann, who gave up 17 runs in 15 IP to the Angels last season, coming out to the tune of a beautiful 10.20 ERA. The one thing that really excited me about today is seeing more of Howie Kendrick against the Rays, he absolutely destroys them. Take a look at these stats: 

  •  As a team, Howie hits .500/.554/.700 OPS 1.254 against the Rays
  • Against Jeff Niemann, Howie hits .625/.750/.750 OPS 1.500
Now tell me you aren’t excited to see this seemingly new and improved Howie Kendrick taking on the Rays. Kendrick is going to be a crucial player in this series, I feel confident knowing a sweep against Tampa may rest in his hands.

I wanted to say something about Weaver, but it’s just going to sound a lot like what i said about him last week. Weaver owns the Rays blah blah blah Niemann couldn’t pitch a winning game against the Angels to save his life blah blah blah. Pretty much just change out Kansas City with Tampa Bay and Hochevar with Niemann and you’ll get what im going at.

What To Look For: Seemingly everyone on this Angels player is locked in at the plate, aside from Wells and Trumbo (who looks like he may be getting a handle on ML pitching). The bullpen is going to shape up quick against the Rays tonight, so whatever offensive outbursts the Angels decide to lay on Niemann will not be wasted. Last week I categorized an Angels offensive outburst as a “Banannas Prediction”, but right now that statement looks more like a certainty than a prediction. Niemann can’t handle the Angels hitters, who are looking better then what a lot of us could have hoped for so early on. The main worry coming into the season was the offense, not the bullpen, which is the most likely cause for all this unnecessary distress so early in the season.  On Sunday the Angels hitters showed some power and finesse all the way up the the crucial 9th, even coming back from an 0-5 deficit very early. The hitters looked a little worn out from all the action, I’m chalking up their poor extra inning performances to not being ready to handle such a lengthy endevor this early in the season.

The Monkey’s Banannas Prediction Of The Day: Showing off his new found prowess, Howie Kendrick is going to come a triple shy of hitting the cycle. Wait, this is supposed to be a banannas prediction, there’s no playing it safe! Howie IS going to hit for the cycle, and his homerun is going to be a grand slam!. Why stop there, why stop at the cycle, why stop at the grand slam?! Howie is going to end the night with AT LEAST 8 RBI’s! Im so confident Howie is going to go hit for the cycle with a grand slam and 8 RBI’s im going to stake my reputation on it! Have the Angels already pushed me to madness with a side effect of DELUSION?!?!?