The Cubs opened the season in Anaheim against the Angels, taking the brief two-game set and outscoring them 15-1, which set the tone for the Cubs' great start. Now the two teams meet again, and for an update, I asked Josh Mayhood, editor-in-chief of our SB Nation Angels site Halos Heaven, to give us an overview of his team.
Hi Cubs fans. Do you remember the Angels? They were the team that the Cubs beat up on in the first two games of the regular season. If your recollection of those contests is intact, then you're probably already up to speed with how things SHOULD play out in this week's series; that is to say, the Angels are still probably going to get chewed up and spit out.
Since that ominous opening day, the Halos haven't really gotten any better, whatsoever. In fact, they've been pretty consistent in their badness this season, barring perhaps the first week of games after the All-Star break. Outside of those games, there are a few things you can always expect from this Angels squad:
Starting pitching will probably give up a bunch of runs. The two starters we know the Cubs will face are Jered Weaver and newly-acquired Ricky Nolasco, both are not going to be giving nightmares to hitters any time soon. The starting pitching was actually something I was super excited about coming into 2016, but then Garrett Richards got injured, may have Tommy John... then Andrew Heaney got injured, and he had to have Tommy John surgery... oh, and Nick Tropeano also got injured, needs Tommy John. Those three guys are some young, talented arms that I was stoked on, but we probably wont see any of them til 2018. This is where you count your blessings as a Cubs fan.
The relief pitching will also probably give up a bunch of runs. The 8th/9th inning tandem going into this season was Joe Smith and Huston Street. In the past, they were just fine, but this year, they hit some bumps in the road. Those bumps first came in the form of just plain ol' bad numbers and outings. Then, those bumps became an injury to Huston Street and Joe Smith getting traded. The Angels have an emerging reliever in Cam Bedrosian, who at times has been lights out, but he's not quite "there" yet. So they have a closer by committee thing going on, and really, nobody is ultra-reliable. Runs will be scored in the next few days, Cubs fans. I'll be watching with my hands covering my eyes, with breaks here and there where I hesitantly take peeks to see just how bad the horrorshow is getting.
The Angels won't exactly go down without a fight. They've been scoring at a decent clip the past month or so...and especially since returning from the break (in that time, the Halos have batted 25 points higher than the Cubs and hit 22 homers to the Cubs' 14). There is some surprising potency in this Angels lineup, bolstered by those 1-4 guys: Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. All have had a GREAT (Trout) to pretty dang good (Escobar) to OK (Pujols) season, and then there are surprises towards the bottom, like defensive stud Andrelton Simmons (currently batting .286, which is crazy for him) and rookie catcher Jett Bandy (this dude has shown hitting skills up there with the other best offensive catchers in the bigs).
The bats aren't as bad as their abysmal record would have you believe, and if you factor in Pujols' love of hitting against the Cubs or in Wrigley (career SLG against Cubs is .620, and career SLG in Wrigley is .620), coupled with the looming dumpster fire that is their current pitching, then we have the potential for some barnburners the next couple days. But ultimately, it will be the good pitching that wins, and the Angels don't really have good pitching whatsoever. The Cubs do, and they'll have to really go out of their way to lose these games... just like on Opening Day. This is where you count your blessings as a Cubs fan this year.
Albert Pujols has the most home runs at Wrigley Field of any active visiting player: 28. All told, he has 56 career homers off Cubs pitching, his most against any team. His last homer against the Cubs was hit July 20, 2013 off Jeff Samardzija, and that boxscore is instructive on how far the Cubs have come since then.
Tuesday:John Lackey, RHP (8-7, 3.70 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 3.77 FIP) vs. Jered Weaver, RHP (8-8, 5.11 ERA, 1.451 WHIP, 5.42 FIP)
Wednesday: Jason Hammel, RHP (11-5, 3.07 ERA, 1.097 WHIP, 4.27 FIP) vs. Ricky Nolasco, RHP (4-8, 5.23 ERA, 1.332 WHIP, 4.47 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, WGN
Wednesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus
The Angels have lost seven of their last 11 games and just got swept by the Mariners. They're 10 games under .500 on the road (23-33) and have allowed the third-most runs of any A.L. team. Both of the pitching matchups are favorable to the Cubs. The Cubs should take both these games.
The St. Louis Cardinals come to Wrigley Field for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.