Oakland A's: 5 Things Learned from Series vs. Los Angeles Angels
It’s always quite an intense battle between these two California foes. The Bay Area’s Oakland Athletics taking on SoCal’s Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim in a matchup between the American League West’s top two teams; and the series was every bit as competitive as expected between these intrastate adversaries.
Though the 2014 campaign is just approaching mid-June, there was a September-like atmosphere at Angel Stadium the past few days. The Athletics entered Monday’s opener leading the West, with a 4.5-game lead over the second-place Angels. The Angels, who want to legitimately contend for a division title this year, needed to improve their record against the Athletics. Los Angeles was 11-18 against the West—1-5 versus Oakland—entering the series.
But the Angels took care of business on their home turf, where they are 20-14 this season—the second-best mark in the AL. Los Angeles won two of three against the A’s to cut its deficit to 3.5 games.
It was a hard-fought series on both sides, where every pitch, every play, every baserunning decision seemed to factor into the outcome of each game. The best part is that there are three more series between these two teams in the second half of the season.
But that’s all in the future.
Here are five things learned from the past series between the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels.
Josh Hamilton a Threat Again
Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton returned to the team last week after missing nearly two months with a ligament tear in his left thumb. It’s a testament to the talent of the Angels lineup and the team’s mettle as a whole that Los Angeles remained within striking distance of the A’s while Hamilton was on the mend.
An already lethal offense, Los Angeles ranks third in the AL in scoring, fourth in OPS and tied for fourth in home runs. The Angels haven’t done one thing necessarily more outstanding than everyone else in the league to compensate for Hamilton’s time away—middle of the pack in batting average, stolen bases and walks. They’ve simply received a lot of offensive contributions from other players and are playing great all-around baseball.
One can only image where the team would be had Hamilton not missed 48 games. Hamilton returned to the Los Angeles lineup last week against the Houston Astros and clobbered a home run. After a down 2013 season, he’s showing signs of being a threat again in the potent Angels lineup.
Against the Athletics, Hamilton was involved in several Angels scoring opportunities. He finished the series 4-for-13, with two runs batted in. However, his presence most importantly adds protection to an improved Albert Pujols and the all-world Mike Trout. Pujols went 4-for-12 with a walk, and Trout went 3-for-10 with four walks.
Having a healthy Hamilton gives the Angels a lethal Big Three that will be tough to handle as LA keeps gunning for the A’s.
Josh Donaldson Is NOT Superhuman
In the Athletics’ previous series against the Baltimore Orioles last weekend, A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson had a tough go of it, both emotionally and at the plate. Tempers flared on Friday, when Orioles third baseman took umbrage to Donaldson’s physically aggressive tag on Manny Machado. Donaldson was equally peeved when the Orioles retaliated by hitting him with a pitch later on.
In the few games that ensued, Donaldson was obviously pressing hard. He tallied four strikeouts in Saturday’s 6-3 Oakland loss. On Sunday, he went 0-for-5, grounding into two double plays and striking out once. He stranded eight runners, twice coming up empty with the bases loaded.
Nobody will fault Donaldson for having a couple of bad games, particularly since the A’s won that series. There was little doubt that Donaldson, the MVP candidate who leads the All-Star Game voting among AL third basemen, would keep emotions under control and bounce back against Los Angeles.
In Monday’s opener against the Angels, Donaldson committed three throwing errors, leading to two unearned runs in LA’s 4-1 victory. He also went 0-for-4 at the plate.
Tuesday, Donaldson fell even deeper, tallying another throwing error and going 0-for-6 at the plate in the A’s 2-1, 14-inning loss.
Wednesday he was given the night off, but he was called into action after Alberto Callaspo left the game with a stomach ailment. Donaldson went 0-for-2, extending his slump to 23 straight hitless at-bats.
Needless to say, Donaldson can afford a few subpar games. He is still the team’s best player. He is still the heart and soul of the ballclub. But he’s still a youngish player in that he hasn’t had a ton of major league experience.
And for all that he has gone through to get to the bigs, he is the type of player who’s always playing with a chip on his shoulder, meaning he can let his emotions get the better of his performance, trying to overdo it instead of remaining calm during his struggles.
Here’s to hoping the A’s give Donaldson another day off on Friday. But knowing him and his superhuman qualities, he’ll be in the lineup against the Yankees.
Stephen Vogt Catching Fire
If it’s not John Jaso wielding a hot bat, it’s Derek Norris. If it’s not Norris, it’s Stephen Vogt. It’s been amazing to see all three of the Athletics catchers excel in their roles on the team. Though, the A’s will say it’s not that surprising.
Vogt is the latest catcher to catch fire. He has only been on the roster for a week-and-a-half, but his contributions have already been felt.
In nine games, Vogt is 9-for-29 with five RBI. Against the Angels, he went 4-for-10, hitting a two-run homer in Wednesday’s 7-1 Oakland victory. With his versatility playing the outfield, Vogt is making it extremely difficult for Bob Melvin to send him back down to Sacramento once Josh Reddick is eligible to come off the DL.
This will be an interesting decision.
Jered Weaver Is Beatable
Throughout his career, Jered Weaver has been an Oakland Athletics killer. Entering the 2014 season, Weaver owned an 11-7 record, with a 2.28 ERA in 26 career starts against Oakland.
That was then—this is now.
In two starts versus the A’s this season, Weaver has been tagged for 10 runs—nine earned—in 11.1 innings, surrendering 17 hits and three walks. Oakland has won both games.
On Wednesday, Weaver and the Angels were going for the series sweep. Though the A’s didn’t put together huge rallies against him, they did enough damage—four runs in 5.1 innings—to knock him out of contention and secure the 7-1 win.
This success against Weaver is certainly important for Oakland’s pursuit of a third consecutive West division title. The A’s will face Weaver probably four or five times a season, and it’s damaging to know that the Angels would likely win all of them.
As competitive as the division is this season, the difference in winning the West and vying for a wild-card spot could come down to the number of times Oakland is able to unravel Weaver.
Do NOT Run on Yoenis Cespedes
Probably the most astounding lesson learned during this series is that the Oakland A’s have a Cuban missile out in left field.
On consecutive nights, Cespedes launched two heat-seekers, nailing Howie Kendrick at the plate on Tuesday (in the eighth inning of a 1-1 tie) and Albert Pujols at third on Wednesday. The two plays immediately vaulted Cespedes into defensive lore among the greatest outfield throwers of all time.
Never mind the fact that Cespedes fielded both balls erroneously. But the lesson here is that no runner should take those misplays seriously. No runner should assume that Cespedes can’t recover. And no runner should test Cespedes’ arm.
Or do it. No fan seems to mind. Watching highlights of his laser throws on loop is probably one of the more delightful morning activities. But the outfield assists will surely give the Angels notice, even though they should have learned this lesson already: Cespedes threw out two runners at home plate in one inning back on June 1.
Los Angeles probably will not test Cespedes’ arm for the rest of the season. But if they do, it’ll be great to watch them get gunned down.
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