May 18, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; General view of the large halo display in the parking lot of Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A Freeway Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Los Angeles Angels


March 28, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder J.B. Shuck (39) steals second against the tag of Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Skip Schumaker (3) during the eighth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

 

THE TALE OF THE TAPE:

Los Angeles Dodgers:  20-28, last place in the National League West, seven games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants

Los Angeles Angels:  23-27, 3rd place in the American League West, nine games behind the Texas Rangers

All-Time Series:  92 games played, Angels lead 54-38

Biggest Wins:  

Angels: 13-0, June 25,2004

Dodgers: 16-3, May 19, 2006

Longest Streaks:

Dodgers:  Four – 1998, 2005

Angels:  Six – 2003-2004

What They Have Done Lately:

-  Angels have won their last eight games, the longest winning streak in Major League Baseball this season to date.

-  Dodgers have lost six of their last ten games, including two out of three to the St. Louis Cardinals in their most recent series after winning two of three on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers and getting swept in three games against the Atlanta Braves.

There is no sugarcoating it: as Los Angeles’ two baseball teams prepare to square off against each other, it is crystal clear that they – as of right now – are going in very different directions.

For the Angels, they are the hottest team in baseball as they are currently on an eight-game wining streak, sweeping the Seattle Mariners at home and most recently the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City.

May 22, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) tags second on his way to third after hitting a triple in the second inning against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After their atrocious start, the Halos seem to be really coming together, particularly their hitting as virtually every starter has improved at the plate over the past few weeks, namely Mark Trumbo,  who’s batting a solid .276 and whose 11 home runs lead the team, and reigning Rookie of the Year Mike Trout, who’s regaining his young Superman form as he hit for the cycle against the Mariners on May 21st for the first time not only in his career, but in his life; “…high school, little league, everything,” he told the Los Angeles Times. He leads the Angels in runs batted in with 36 and stolen bases with 12.

Howie Kendrick has likewise been outstanding with his .295 average, seven homers and 27 RBIs, and Albert Pujols and especially Josh Hamilton are starting to come around, Hamilton raising his average to .223 with eight home runs after barely hitting .200 for so long.

On the mound, C.J. Wilson and Jason Vargas both have earned run averages in the mid-3.00 range while Ernesto Frieri has done very well with his 2.91 ERA and ten saves.

The most encouraging news coming from Anaheim is the fact that after suffering a broken elbow against Texas on April 8th, pitching ace Jered Weaver is scheduled to return to the mound on Wednesday at Angel Stadium, which will make the Halos that much more formidable as they try to make a move on the Rangers.

As for the Dodgers, compared to their red-clad Orange County rivals things have been rather chaotic as after their sweep at the hands of the Braves, things had gotten to the point where it was widely believed that manager Don Mattingly would be fired right then.

After all, when a team has a MLB-record payroll of $239 million and has an ownership – which includes the ultimate L.A. sports winner Magic Johnson – that expects top-notch results right away, particularly in light of the fact that such team was regarded as a contender for the World Series, it’s not at all surprising that things are in disarray at Chavez Ravine.

Indeed, Mattingly has had a bit of trouble with two of his marquee stars, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, sitting Ethier down three times in a six-game stretch because of his underachieving .253 average and 15 RBIs and consequently having a rough patch with the right fielder, while center fielder Kemp is hitting a mere .260 with only two home runs; far below his 2011 numbers to be sure.

Kemp’s frustration has been showing as he was pulled in a recent game against the Cardinals in a double switch and was not happy about it, the cameras catching him yelling in the dugout. People have speculated that his left shoulder, which was operated on in the off-season, has affected his power.

The main factors in L.A. being where they are has been their lack of hitting with runners in scoring position – they currently rank 28th out of the 30 MLB teams in that category – and their relief pitching; they have blown lead after lead this season, including all three games in Atlanta.

Brandon League, while having saved ten games in 12 opportunities, sports an ugly (for a closer) 4.91 earned run average, which desperately needs to come down.

The Dodgers are fortunate that there have been plenty of bright spots, as utility infielder Nick Punto, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford have far exceeded expectaions as well as pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

May 26, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) high fives left fielder Carl Crawford (25) after a 2-run home run in the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Punto has more than stepped up in the walk of Hanley Ramirez’s hamstring injury – Ramirez has played only four games so far in 2013 – with his team-leading .337 average and stellar play at third, second and shortstop. Gonzalez has been a monster at the plate as his six homers and 36 RBIs lead the team, and Crawford has continued to be the man out of the leadoff spot with his .308 batting average and his five home runs, which is second on the team.

Despite losing to St. Louis in his last start, Kershaw’s 1.68 ERA is, to put it bluntly, sick. And Ryu, the Korean import, has been very consistent with his 5-2 record and an ERA of 3,30.

What does all of this mean as these two teams renew a crosstown rivalry that, while not quite on the level of UCLA – USC, is a pretty intense one in its own right?

Some will say that it doesn’t mean a thing, as the old rivalry cliche of “You throw the records out” is prevalent in their mindsets, but here’s how I see these next four games – two in Dodger Stadium followed by two in Angel Stadium – playing out:

The way things are going, with the Angels being on fire and the Dodgers being a mediocre bunch, particularly with Kershaw’s turn in the rotation not coming up I suspect that the Halos will take three out of four from their north-of-downtown-L.A. counterparts.

But as in other sports, you never know.

Here are the pitching match-ups:

Monday at Dodger Stadium, 5:00 p.m:   C.J. Wilson vs. Zack Greinke

Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, 7:00 p.m:  Joe Blanton vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu

Wednesday at Angel Stadium, 7:00 p.m:  Jered Weaver vs. TBD

Thursday at Angel Stadium, 7:00 p.m:  Jason Vargas vs. TBD

All the games will be shown on Fox Sports West, with Channel 9 also televising the games on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while Prime Ticket will show Monday’s game.

 

 

L.A. SPORTS HUBBERS:  HOW DO YOU THINK THIS FREEWAY SERIES WILL GO? WILL THE ANGELS CONTINUE THEIR WHITE-HOT STREAK, OR CAN THE DODGERS SLOW THEM DOWN?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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