After a 2-3 week against the Guardians and Blue Jays, the Reds (64-61) head out on the road for a tough 10-game West Coast trip, starting with three games against the Los Angeles Angels (61-64). The Reds sit in third place in the NL Central, four games back of the Brewers, and one game behind the Cubs for the final Wild Card spot. The competition isn’t dwindling, either, as the Reds now have identical records to the Diamondbacks (who they’ll face for four games this weekend) and the Marlins.
The Angels, meanwhile, are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2014 as they face the impending free agency of superstar Shohei Ohtani. A busy trade deadline hasn’t exactly fueled an August run for the Angels, who are just 5-13 this month and have fallen to fourth in the AL West and eight games out of the Wild Card race.
It’ll be just the fourth time the Reds have played in Angel Stadium, with the most recent series coming in 2019. The Reds are 1-7 all-time on the road against the Angels. Here are the start times for this week’s series:
Monday: 9:38 p.m. EST(Monday’s game has been postponed due to the effects of Hurricane Hilary.)
- Tuesday: 9:38 p.m. EST
- Wednesday: 4:07 p.m. EST and 9:38 p.m. EST
Powered by Ohtani, the Angels have been a slightly above-average offense this season.
- Average: .250 (15th)
- On-base percentage: .323 (14th)
- Isolated power: .185 (5th)
- wRC+: 106 (9th)
But their offense is about to get a massive lift, as Mike Trout is expected to be activated from the injured list for this series, per The Athletic’s Sam Blum. Trout has been on the IL since early July with a hamate fracture.
Ohtani has terrorized pitchers this season, batting .306/.407/.664 with 43 home runs as he’s poised to win his second MVP trophy. When healthy, Trout wasn’t producing at the MVP level he’s been accustomed to for the last decade, in part because he continues to strike out more and walk less. But make no mistake about it: he’s still one of the best hitters in the game.
While the Angels don’t necessarily have any dead weight in their lineup, they’ve lacked star power around Ohtani with Trout on the shelf.
Old friend Brandon Drury has maintained above-average production after signing a free-agent deal with the Angels, while former first overall pick Mickey Moniak has had his first extended run of success in the big leagues. The team just called up first baseman Nolan Schanuel after selecting him with their first-round pick in the July draft, the fifth-fastest promotion of a position player since the inaugural MLB Draft in 1965.
The Angels also made some desperation deadline moves to try to make the playoffs in what could be Ohtani’s final season as a Halo. After acquiring past-their-prime veteran infielders Mike Moustakas and Eduardo Escobar in June, the Angels dealt for outfielder Randal Grichuk and first baseman C.J. Cron at the deadline.
Even with Trout back in action, the Halos have a laundry list of position player injuries. They’re without first baseman C.J. Cron, third baseman Anthony Rendon, second baseman Zach Neto, outfielder Taylor Ward, outfielder Jo Adell, infielder Gio Urshela, and catcher Max Stassi. They did just get catcher Logan O’Hoppe back from the injured list, however.
As has been the story for the entire careers of Trout and Ohtani, the Angels have been held back by their pitching in 2023. Here are their starting rotation ranks:
- ERA: 4.60 (23rd)
- FIP: 4.62 (27th)
- xFIP: 4.65 (25th)
- SIERA: 4.28 (25th)
- K%: 22.7% (25th)
- BB%: 10.7% (28th)
The Angels have used a six-man rotation all season to limit Ohtani’s workload. For the most part, their starting pitchers have stayed healthy — four members of the rotation have thrown 100+ innings and made 20+ starts.
Note: The pitching matchups below may change due to Monday’s postponement.
The Angels’ biggest trade deadline acquisition, Lucas Giolito, will get the ball in the series opener. After a strong run from 2019-2021, Giolito is in the midst of his second straight mediocre season. His strikeout rate has decreased three years in a row, and only two pitchers (Jordan Lyles, Patrick Corbin) have allowed more home runs than Giolito since 2021. His fastball velocity (93.1 mph) is also down a tick from where it sat a couple of years ago (93.8 mph). Acquired from the White Sox on July 27, Giolito has made four starts as a member of the Angels and hasn’t pitched particularly well (8.14 ERA, 6.74 FIP, 5.06 xFIP).
A pair of young southpaws will square off in Game 2. Reid Detmers, the 10th overall pick in the 2020 draft, will toe the rubber for the Angels. Now in his second big-league season, Detmers has been inconsistent. He’s improved his strikeout rate by almost five percentage points (77th percentile) and his average fastball velocity has jumped from 93.2 to 94.6 mph. But his walk rate has also increased (31st), and he hasn’t been able to miss left-handed bats (16.6 K%) the same way as right-handers (29.9 K%). After getting shelled two outings in a row, Detmers is coming off a strong performance against the Rangers in which he carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
As of now, the Reds have not named a starter for Wednesday’s series finale. Nick Lodolo will take over this spot in the rotation soon, but it currently remains open after Luke Weaver was designated for assignment and released last week. It could be Brett Kennedy, who threw five scoreless innings against the Blue Jays on Friday. It could also be Lyon Richardson, who was added to the taxi squad on Sunday. Whoever it is will get the pleasure of facing against one of the league’s top pitchers. Although Ohtani isn’t having the same monstrous season on the mound (2.3 fWAR) that he is at the plate (6.2), he’s still been one of the league’s best pitchers. He trails only two qualified pitchers in strikeout rate (Spencer Strider, Kevin Gausman) and leads the league in batting average against (.184). The right-hander hasn’t given up a run in his last three starts (19 IP), though one was cut short because he cramped up. If there’s a weakness for Ohtani, it’s wildness; he sports a career-worst walk rate (10.3%) and has issued at least one free pass in all 22 of his starts this season.
The Reds are still treading water in the playoff race despite their poor play in the second half, and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Historically, trips to the West Coast have been tough for the Reds, and they’ll face three other teams vying for playoff positions over the next 10 days — with no off days in between — before returning home for a potentially pivotal four-game series against the Cubs to start September. Will the Reds be able to keep pace with the Cubs by the time that series rolls around? They’ll need to at least hold serve out west to do so.
Featured photo: Mogami Kariya