The Los Angeles Angels take on the Arizona Diamondbacks in a weekend interleague series, with the opener of the three-game set taking place Friday night from Chase Field in Phoenix. The two teams are yet to have met this season and did meet three times last year due to the COVID schedule, with the Diamondbacks taking two of three games on the road to take the season series. Prior to that, it hasn't been since 2018 when they met, so there isn't an intense history of late between the two teams. The Angels come on having won two in a row and seven of their last ten overall but still sit in fourth place in the AL West, seven games behind the Athletics atop the division. For the Diamondbacks, they enter with the worst record in baseball, have lost seven in a row, and are 2-8 in their last ten games. Van the ANgels use this weekend's series to catapult themselves back towards the top of the AL West, or will the Diamondbacks play spoiler at home?
Ohtani To Lead The WayThe legend of Shohei Ohtani grows and grows with every game and Friday night will be the next chapter in that story as he makes another appearance on the mound. The story of the Angels this year has been where their offense can take them, as early in the season saw an effort that had many think this was a playoff team, while much of May saw them go ice-cold. The last few weeks though have been an improvement and even with Mike Trout out for at least the next few weeks, the offense should have enough to score some runs over the next few days. The Angels are also already with Dexter Fowler, who will miss the rest of the year with an ACL injury, and shortstop Franklin Barreto, who is out at least into next week with an elbow injury. Besides the injury to Trout though, they haven't had to deal with anything too pressing yet this season and at least nothing that should impact the upcoming series with Arizona.
With his home run in the third inning last night, Max Stassi has now homered in three straight games with a plate appearance for the first time in his career. #CarryTheFreight pic.twitter.com/0ye5zKTIEF— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) June 9, 2021
Without Trout, this offense is significantly less daunting for most opponents and with Ohtani on the mound as well, his offense might take a back seat for the series opener. Jared Walsh is having a great start to the season though and is emerging as a threat for this team, leading them in batting average (.297), OBP (.364), and hits (63). Ohtani leads the team with 17 home runs and 44 RBI, but it's tough to gauge how his hitting might be given his start on Friday. Over the last week though, it's been Justin Upton on a tear, hitting four home runs in the last seven games, while hitting .375. With Trout out and Ohtani on the mound, the Angels will need everyone to step up like Upton has to keep the offense going.
According to MLB.com, Ohtani will be getting the ball in what has been a historic year for the righty. He only has a 2-1 record, but his 2.76 ERA is impressive and he'll have a good chance at improving those numbers against baseball's worst team in the Diamondbacks. In eight starts, he has struck out 60 opponents but has done a great job to reduce his walk numbers and improve his command, while also giving up fewer home runs. Ohtani is coming off a great start the last time out against the Mariners, getting the win after a strong six-inning outing, allowing four hits and two runs, while striking out ten and walking none. Ohtani's only other appearance against the Twins came back in 2018 as a rookie, when he struck out 11 across 6.1 innings, allowing only a run and three hits in the no-decision.
Diamondbacks ReelingThe Diamondbacks were expected to struggle this season, especially given their division, but nobody expected them to limp to last place in the AL West and have the worst record in baseball come mid-June. Unlike many of their counterparts, they don't even have any major injuries with no positions players questionable and only Kole Calhoun on the 60-day IL. The pitching staff has been hit hard though, as six starters are currently out, along with three relievers, which has really forced their hand into throwing some youngsters into the fold to gain experience. The Diamondbacks give up the most runs per game in baseball and are bottom ten in the league in most offensive statistics, which helps to explain the issues they've run into so far on the season.
Pavin Smith has been a nice piece for the offense this year, leading the team in batting average (.290), OBP (.343), and hits (63). Now that the offense is healthy as wise, it might take some time to see everyone mesh, but Arizona definitely has some legitimate players on the offense. Eduardo Escobar leads the team with 14 home runs and 41 RBI, while Ketel Marte is hitting .365 and should be a valuable piece for the summer stretch. Over the last seven days, Marte is hitting .429, while four others have multiple home runs over the last seven days. If the offense can continue to come along over the coming week, they should start to find more success, but that likely won't come soon enough for Friday's opener.
With the injuries dismantling Arizona's starting rotation and bullpen, Merrill Kelly is going to get the start on Friday night, according to MLB.com. Kelly comes in with a 2-6 record and 5.12 ERA but has been eating up innings, getting through six innings in five straight starts for the Diamondbacks, and has been much sharper over the last month. Kelly hasn't been terribly sharp over the last few starts, allowing at least four earned runs in both of his last two games, and he also hasn't secured a win since the end of April, but many of those losses game despite him allowed three runs or less. Friday is a great opportunity for him against a thinned-out Los Angeles lineup and it'll be interesting to see what he can do toe-to-toe against Ohtani.
The top team trends, according to covers.com, are: - Diamondbacks are 0-5 in Kelly's last five starts when their opponent allowed two runs or less in their previous game. - Diamondbacks are 0-4 in Kelly's last four starts when their opponent scored five runs or more in their previous game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Diamondbacks have the worst record in baseball for a reason, and it's tough to imagine a scenario where they suddenly take on a potential playoff caliber team and take down their ace. The Angels will be missing Trout, but they still have plenty in the tank between Walsh, Ohtani, and a red-hit Justin Upton, Kelly is going to struggle on the mound for Arizona to slow down the offense. On the flip side, the Diamondbacks might be healthy now, but there still has been quite a bit of turnover in the lineup, and players starting to acclimate themselves with each other. Ohtani will be able to take advantage of that inexperience this season and continue his strong season and get quite a few punchouts. Friday, and the weekend as a whole, isn't a great matchup for a lowly Arizona team and the Angels will use this to work themselves back into the AL West and AL Wild Card races.
Full-Game Total Pick
Ohtani has been lights out of late and taking on an Arizona offense that has been pretty cold over the last few weeks will only serve his stats even better than they currently look. He shouldn't have many issues in keep the Diamondbacks at bay and struggling to find runs in the opener. For the Angels, they've got some bats, but it's hard to know what to expect from Ohtani since he'll be on the mound, and with Trout out, it makes this offense much more difficult for them to put up a big number. Additionally, according to covers.com, for the Angels, the under is 5-0 in Ohtani's last five starts on grass, 5-0 in his last five starts overall, and 5-0 in his last five starts following a quality start his last time out.