ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball crew should be excited about this week's clash in Anaheim between the Angels and Boston Red Sox, and so should fans and bettors. Not only do we get the rubber game aspect of the series between two of the hottest clubs in the American League, a marquee battle on the hill adds to the anticipation.
John Lackey is on tap to pitch the finale for Boston while the Angels counter with Jered Weaver and are favored with a -130 to -135 price after opening about 10¢ higher. An 8 run total (U -115) is also part of the decision process on the MLB odds board.
Josh Hamilton's walk-off blast in the 11th completed LA's comeback Saturday to even this weekend set. Boston had a 7-3 lead entering the ninth before things unraveled for the Red Sox, and Hamilton also had an RBI single in that 4-run frame that forced extras. We might see some more 9th-inning excitement this evening; Boston's Koji Uehara, credited with a blown save on Saturday, has pitched in each of the first two games and might not be available for a third consecutive day, while Angels closer Ernesto Frieri worked two innings (27 pitches) and could be on a short leash if needed.
I give you John Derran Lackey to illustrate how misleading baseball stats can often be. The big hurler has been solid all season while posting a 2.81 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, both good enough for the top 10 among AL arms. Yet Boston has managed to win only half of his 14 starts. Since joining the Red Sox, however, he's 4-1 in five assignments against his former club despite having an ERA more than a run-&-a-half higher.
Be sure to check up on the Baltimore Orioles vs. Yankees series~
Lackey is also 2-0 vs. the Angels at the Big A with a stellar 1.17 ERA as he prepares to face them for the first time since getting hammered at Fenway in May 2011.
Weaver rebounded from an ugly 3-start losing streak with a pair of outstanding outings, both going into LA's win column. The former 49er from Long Beach State shut down a potent Cardinals lineup on Tuesday with seven innings of 1-run, 6-hit baseball, and the Halos won both of his starts vs. Boston last season (14 IP, 6 ER). David Ortiz and former Angel Mike Napoli have each taken Weaver deep twice in their careers.
Mike Winters, who celebrates the 25th anniversary of his first game as an MLB umpire on Tuesday, is up next for plate duty and owns an 11-8 O/U record to date in 2013. The home fans have also gone home happy the last three times he called balls and strikes in Anaheim.
The prime-time ESPN broadcast will be a 5 PM start in Anaheim, so the shadows creeping across the infield should give Lackey and Weaver a little extra advantage for an inning or two. There's also going to be a little extra humidity in the air as the sun sets and temps slide from about 80º flat into the low 70s by game's end. I like the Angels in the end, and will make my play that direction.
My pick: Angels -131 at Bet365
By: Willie Bee
It is tough enough to beat the Boston Red Sox with a pitcher working on his regular schedule, but Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia has no choice in Saturday's tilt but to send an arm to the mound on short rest …very short rest.
Boston will go for its sixth straight win and fourth consecutive series triumph with Ryan Dempster on the hill in Game 2 of the set at the Big A. He'll be opposed by Jerome Williams who is working with just two days off since taking a beating by the Cardinals on Wednesday. The shift in LA's rotation kept the contest off the MLB odds board until Saturday morning when the Halos started around -120 with an 8.5 run total favoring the OVER.
Most people will look at Friday's boxscore and conclude late homers by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli were the decisive blows in Boston's 6-2 win. But the truth is sloppy fielding by Angel outfielders played a larger role in the outcome. Just a day after hitting a game-tying home run in LA's 9th-inning rally vs. St. Louis, Josh Hamilton turned from hero to goat when he misplayed what should have been an inning-ending fly that snapped a 2-2 tie with the Red Sox.
Angels starter and losing pitcher CJ Wilson noted after the game that Hamilton was "doing the best he can," and that may be the problem. Both Hamilton and Pujols are no doubt giving it their all, but they remain the most overpriced players in the majors.
With so much of his MLB experience logged in the National League, Dempster has a very limited resume against the Angels. His one and only victory over them came about a month ago in Boston, and that was pretty much his only effective appearance vs. the Halos. Dempster had never faced the Angels before joining the Rangers last July, and three starts against them netted an 11.20 ERA and twoTexas defeats.
Dempster does have a lot of history facing Pujols, and Phat Albert has won most of those battles, including launching eight homers in 73 plate appearances.
Williams never made it through the second inning three days ago having walked four and surrenderedSt. Louis' first seven runs in a 12-2 rout. He ended up burning through 55 pitches, and today would have been his normal day to throw between starts, so it's not like he wasn't expected to get some work in on Saturday. Scioscia didn't say Williams would be on a pitch limit, but expect no more than 75 from him.
He saw Boston in June in a relief role (3 IP, 3 ER), and Williams' only starting experience againstBoston came in 2004 when he was with the Giants, also an ugly outing (4.2 IP, 5 ER).
All of the ingredients for a slugfest appear to be in the mix, especially adding in umpire Tim Timmons (11-5-2 O/U/P) behind the plate, and that's exactly how I'll play it.
By: Willie Bee
True, the Los Angeles Angels would rank sixth in the AL East where the Boston Red Sox have a comfortable cushion with the top mark in the Junior Circuit, but it would still be a mistake to go to sleep on the Angels. You can bet the Red Sox, who set out on a tough 10-game trip way across the Lower 48, understand that and won't take the Halos lightly.
The first of those 10 games is Friday in Anaheim. Southpaws are scheduled for both teams, one of the last games on the baseball betting card, with Felix Doubront up next for Boston while CJ Wilson opens proceedings for the Angels. Wilson and the Halos went out at -145 on the overnight numbers, and the moneyline remains at or just below that level after the initial action.
MLB odds for Game 1 also include a 9 run total that is 30 cents to the low side at many betting outlets, 8.5 also available at some shops.
This is one of those games and series that fans and bettors need to buy into some of the hype. The Angels are still making a slow climb towards .500, and will need to climb a little more in the AL West standings before they officially put pressure on the Athletics and Rangers. It has been something of a Jekyll & Hyde act by Mike Scioscia's club this season, and right now it's the sweet side of the game with eight wins in the last nine games.
Boston also comes into Friday's tilt with a recent 8-1 mark after completing a homestand Wednesday with a sweep of the Padres. The Red Sox hit the road with stops in Seattle and Oakland after this set in Anaheim, and John Farrell would love to get the journey off on a good note against the dangerous Angels.
Resilient Red Sox Begin Long Trek West
Give Farrell and the Sox credit for not caving in during a rough patch in June that coincided with seeing their top starting pitcher shelved on the DL while the back of the bullpen crumbled. Boston is still without Clay Buchholz, the latest news being he could return after the All-Star Game, but Koji Uehara has settled into the closer's role to help calm the relief corps.
Doubront has seen his ERA come down by more than two runs since mid-May, and is coming off a 2.75 mark in six June starts. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, it only translated into a 2-4 record. His last outing saw Doubront work into the seventh against the Blue Jays who scored four runs late to take a 6-2 decision, Boston's only setback on the just-completed homestand.
Boston's only loss to the Angels when the clubs met at Fenway in early-June was also with Doubront on the mound. It was the first time he'd faced the Halos as a starter.
Did Recent Road Trip Wake Angels Up?
The Angels started this homestand and the month of July by taking two of three from the Cardinals, including Sunday's walk-off job. Scioscia's troops really seemed to find their mojo on their trip to close June, sweeps in Detroit and Houston who pretty much represent the two ends of the AL power charts.
A 9-game win streak vs. the Red Sox came to an end a little less than a month ago in Boston, coincidentally with Wilson on the hill. That defeat was out of character for the lefty vs. the Beantowners; Wilson is 5-2 lifetime vs. the Red Sox with a 2.85 ERA, and has emerged victorious in each of his last four starts.
The Angels swept the series at the Big A last year, two of the three going OVER. All three at Fenway Park in June sailed past the total. Weather shouldn't be an issue at all for the entire series. Friday's contest should get underway with temps in the low-70s, a few clouds and light breeze from the SW (out to center).
You can't choose one team or the other without having a solid case for the decision, but I'm going to make my first play in this series on the home team. Make sure to check back all weekend for previews and free picks.
My pick: Angels -142 at Bet365