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Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Angels series preview

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The best player in baseball and Mike Trout are set to square off in a series that matters for exactly one of these teams.

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With the American League Central now under wraps and an October run assured, the Cleveland Indians will turn their focus to locking down home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. To do this, they’ll start against the Los Angeles Angels and the best player of this generation, Jose Ramirez, will be on hand to assist. Mike Trout will be there, too.

Despite missing a chunk of the season with a hand injury, enough that he doesn’t technically qualify for leaderboards, Trout is third in the American League in FanGraphs WAR at 6.2. For anyone else, that is a monumental season, but for Trout it probably feels like a bit of a disappointment — I joke about Jose Ramirez being the best, but he’s only at 5.7 fWAR and it’s a career year.

Trout is sporting a career-high 185 wRC+, which breaks down to a .315/.452/.638 slash line, all of which besides batting average are career-highs. A lot of that can be attributed to the hottest start of his career in which he slashed a ridiculous .337/.461/.742 through 206 plate appearances before he slid into second base and injured his thumb in late May.

Outside of Trout, the Angels have a great shortstop in Andrelton Simmons, who is posting a career-high 105 wRC+ along with his always stellar defense. They also acquired Justin Upton from the Detroit Tigers at the deadline, who has slashed .288/.431/.558 with three home runs in 15 games since joining the Angels. It all comes together for a potentially scary offense, which the Angels have ridden to a 76-73 record entering play today, 1.5 games back of the Minnesota Twins for the second Wild Card spot and a chance to play the New York Yankees in a one-game playoff.

They would be in an even better spot, but their entire pitching staff has seemingly been injured at one time or another this season, resulting in an awful string of pitching early in the season. Their starters have somewhat recovered to the tune of a 4.88 ERA as a group in September, 9th in the American League.

As this is a West Coast trip, the first two games will take place at the ungodly start time of 10:07 p.m. ET and the third will be a much more reasonable getaway game start at 4:07 p.m. ET.

Pitching matchups

  • Tuesday, 10:07 p.m. ET: Mike Clevinger (RHP) vs. Tyler Skaggs (LHP)
  • Wednesday, 10:07 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Ricky Nolasco (RHP)
  • Thursday, 4:07 p.m. ET: Danny Salazar (RHP) vs. Parker Bridwell (RHP)

The thing that sticks out most here on the Indians side is Danny Salazar starting game three. Terry Francona is switching to a six-man rotation to ensure some rest for starters over the final 12 games, which means Salazar gets a chance to start for the first time since September 5. To my knowledge, this hasn’t been officially confirmed as a tryout for Salazar’s roster spot, but if he’s smart he’ll treat it like one.

Mike Clevinger will get a chance to stare down the team that traded him as a prospect once again. It didn’t go well the last time he faced them when he allowed five runs off nine hits in 4.1 innings. Hopefully it goes better this time in LA.

The Angels will start the series with Tyler Skaggs, one of those many key pitchers were went down with an injury early in the season. Since his return from the disabled list on August 8, Skaggs has a 4.65 ERA and 4.63 FIP over 40.2 innings. He has had issues with command in his return, but he’s coming off a seven-inning perfomance in which he held the Houston Astros scoreless off three hits.

Acquired at last year’s trade deadline for cash and a PTBNL, Parker Bridwell has been one of the Angels’ most okayest starters this season with a 3.71 ERA and 4.56 FIP. Considering the rest of the rotation, the “most okayest” is basically Cy Young-caliber for the Angels right now.

Los Angeles Angels roster

FanGraphs