The Los Angeles Angels will continue a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. Chicago took Tuesday's series opener with a 9-3 win to cash in as a huge -268 favorite. Los Angeles falls further below .500 at 70-74, while the White Sox are headed for the AL Central title at 83-61.
These teams met way back in the opening series of the season, with the Angels winning three of four at home. Los Angeles has not lost the season series against the White Sox since 2015.
Young pitching struggles as Angels can't hang with ChicagoA few rookie pitchers have helped the Los Angeles pitching staff show a lot of improvement since the All-Star break, but the unit was unable to hold up against a tough White Sox offense in Tuesday's opener. The offense didn't do much either, as a solo homer from Phil Gosselin in the top of the first and two-run shot by Jared Walsh in the fourth would be all the scoring Los Angeles could muster.
The 27th HR of the year for Jared Walsh! pic.twitter.com/DEcdBBin5D— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) September 15, 2021
After looking good in his first two career starts, Packy Naughton was shelled for four earned runs allowed on six hits and one walk in just 2.2 innings while striking out two. Andrew Wantz also struggled in relief, allowing three runs in his lone inning of work. Walsh was on base twice, as the Angels couldn't cash in going just 1-8 with runners in scoring position.
It's been a rough gambling season for the Angles, who are 64-80 against the spread while being down on the money line after entering the year with higher hopes. Overs are a strong 78-65-1 for the Angels, although six of their last 10 games have gone under the betting total.
The Angels have tailed off hard at the plate in the second half, bringing their season numbers to an average of 4.47 runs per game with a 0.721 team OPS. Los Angeles' pitching staff has improved since the break still ranks in the bottom 10 with a 4.71 collective ERA, with the bullpen and rotation posting nearly equal stats.
Janson Junk will get the ball for the Angels on Wednesday after making his MLB debut against the Texas Rangers back on September 5, when he allowed one earned run on six hits and one walk while striking out two in 3.2 innings, with four unearned runs also coming in to score. The 25-year-old posted a terrific 1.78 ERA across 65.2 at the AA level in the New York Yankees system before coming over in the Andrew Heaney trade. Shohei Ohtani is likely headed for the AL MVP Award with an unprecedented two-way season, including posting a 0.972 OPS, 44 homers, 23 steals and 94 RBI at the plate to lead the Angels offense.
Injuries to two superstars has been a big part of the story for the Angels, as outfielder Mike Trout has been out since May with a strained calf while third baseman Anthony Rendon underwent season-ending hip surgery in August. Outfielder Justin Upton is also sidelined by a strained lumbar, while Dexter Fowler suffered a torn ACL early in the year. Starting pitcher Alex Cobb is expected to return from wrist inflammation later in this series, while Dylan Bundy (strained shoulder), Reid Detmers (COVID protocol) and Patrick Sandoval (lumbar spine stress reaction) are out. Relievers Austin Warren and Jose Marte are also in COVID protocol, while Luke Bard is recovering from hip surgery.
Giolito returns, White Sox cruiseWhile Lucas Giolito wasn't at his best returning from a brief IL stint due to a strained hamstring, Chicago's bullpen and offense did more than enough to make up for it on Tuesday. Gavin Sheets gave the White Sox the lead for good in the bottom of the second with an RBI single before blowing the game wide open on a mammoth three-run shot just an inning later.
Gavin Sheets just cranked that baseball to Schaumburg pic.twitter.com/OAabtVDH6c— Red Line Radio (@RedLineRadio) September 15, 2021
Giolito went just three innings in his first start since August 29, allowing three runs on three hits and two walks while racking up eight strikeouts. Aaron Bummer was credited with the win for a scoreless inning in relief. Sheets went off, going 3-4 with a double, a homer, four RBI and two runs scored.
“It was huge,” Sheets said to the Associated Press. “For (Tony La Russa) to put me in there in a big game when we’re still still fighting for home-field advantage was big for me. Being in the big leagues is a dream come true. To be here and contribute, you can’t ask for more than that in a rookie year.”
Chicago has not been great for gamblers, going 74-71 against the spread while being down slightly on the money line as it tends to be a huge favorite in most matchups. Overs are 65-71-8 for the White Sox, and just two of their last nine games have gone over the betting total.
Despite rarely having all their stars fully healthy at the same time, the White Sox have put up big numbers at the plate with an average of 4.95 runs per game and a 0.753 OPS to rank just outside the top five in the Majors. Chicago pitching has also been terrific with a 3.78 ERA while striking out an MLB-best 10.25 opposing batters per nine innings.
Veteran Dallas Keuchel will get the ball on Wednesday hoping to get things turned around for the stretch run, as he's struggled all season with an 8-9 record and 5.33 ERA across 28 outings. The former AL Cy Young Award winner took another loss last week against the Oakland Athletics, allowing five runs on eight hits and one walk across 5.2 innings while striking out three. Reigning AL MVP Jose Abreu is having another productive season to pace the White Sox offense with an 0.834 OPS, 29 home runs and 107 RBI.
Chicago is much healthier than at earlier points of the season, although standout rookie left fielder Andrew Vaughn went down last week with lower back inflammation while outfielder Adam Engel is currently on a rehab assignment with shoulder inflammation. The White Sox are also missing one key bullpen piece as deadline acquisition Ryan Tepara hit the IL last week with a finger laceration, while Jimmy Cordero (Tommy John surgery) and Evan Marshall (strained flexor) are also out.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
While the White Sox are obviously a much better team overall than the Angels, it's impossible to trust Keuchel as this much of a favorite at this point. For all their disappointment this season, the Angels have still hovered around .500 in the second half while getting some surprisingly good pitching, and this is a good opportunity for the offense to get back on track.
Predictive metrics such as a 6.11 expected ERA based on batted ball data indicate that Keuchel's numbers won't be heading in the right direction soon, as he's pinpoint command from past years is no longer there, leading to a lot of mistakes in the middle of the plate. Junk is still certainly an unknown but has the potential to be an underrated find for the Angels after posting great numbers in the minors, and he would have fared much better in his MLB debut if it weren't for some shoddy defense behind him.
The Angels bullpen ranks sixth in WAR since the All-Star break as some younger options have pitched well, and while the White Sox have a terrific group of relievers, they might not push their high-leverage arms too much down the stretch as the AL Central crown is all but locked up. Bet on the Angels to score an upset here, as Keuchel is worth fading as a big favorite.
Full-Game Total Pick
This won't be an easy assignment for a young pitcher against a loaded White Sox offense that doesn't have as much power as some other elite groups but gets on base a ton. Chicago ranks fifth in the Majors with a 109 wRC+ as a team, and finally has just about everyone healthy after sluggers like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal all missed significant time earlier in the year.
Even though the Angels are slumping at the plate overall, and offense that features major power threats in Ohtani and Walsh plus some rookies that are improving is enough to handle a bad starting pitcher. Neither starter is particularly trustworthy on Wednesday, which will result in more of a slugfest.