Two of the hottest teams in baseball will meet during the final weekend of the season, and only one of them will have a desperate sense about them.
The Los Angeles Angels will visit the Los Angeles Dodgers for three games starting Friday night, having finally come to life by winning six of their last seven games and 14 of their last 20.
Long out of contention, or so it seemed, the Angels will enter the final weekend still alive for a playoff berth. Barely.
The Angels need to win three consecutive games against the Dodgers, while the Houston Astros would have to lose three consecutive games to the Texas Rangers.
Suddenly an intriguing scenario has developed.
The Dodgers have not made a secret about their animosity for the Astros, who were caught cheating during the 2017 season. That was the year the Astros defeated the Dodgers in the World Series.
Not that they would avoid trying, but the Dodgers could actually help eliminate the Astros by losing to the Angels.
The Angels might be able to handle things all on their own with the way they have stepped up their play down the stretch. Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton and Anthony Bemboom all hit second-inning home runs in a victory over the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.
Jared Walsh went 0-for-5 on Wednesday to see his 14-game hitting streak come to an end, but he is still batting .342 in September with eight home runs and 23 RBIs.
“We lost some games early, and they’ve become magnified right now,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “Everybody had the same goal in mind of a fast start. The threat was that the group would kind of like, I won’t use the word quit, but they would be less interested if they got off to a bad start. But our guys are showing the absolute opposite. I’m really proud of them.”
The Angels will send left-hander Andrew Heaney (4-3, 4.02 ERA) to the mound, and he is on a roll, posting a 2.70 ERA over his last five outings.
Heaney was once a member of the Dodgers, albeit only for a few hours, after the 2014 season when he was traded from the Miami Marlins and then flipped to the Angels. He is 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers.
Opposing Heaney will be another lefty in the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.15), who will get in his final tuneup before the playoffs next week. His outing figures to be limited before he turns it over to a bullpen that struck out 10 Oakland A’s batters over the final five innings on Thursday.
In 12 career starts against the Angels, Kershaw is an impressive 7-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.
Kershaw and Walker Buehler, who returned from the injured list on Thursday, are the only two starters manager Dave Roberts has named for next week’s opening round of the playoffs.
Roberts is looking for a workhorse in the postseason, but Kershaw is 32 and Buehler is returning from two stints on the injured list because of a blister on his right index finger. Two other starting options for the Dodgers are rookie right-handers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, who are expected to see action in the series.
“You can’t overstate it,” said Roberts, whose team has won seven of their last nine games. “The value of the top-end guys (are) to take down meaningful innings, to not overtax bullpen, to dominate games, to cover a night of offense that you might not have to still win a baseball game.”
–Field Level Media