May 14, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Andre Rienzo (64) throws a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the sixth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

White Sox in Los Angeles Visiting Angels

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The Chicago White Sox remain in Los Angeles, and after a day off, they go to Orange County to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This weekend’s series will be an important one for the American League Wild Card Standings.

The Angels currently occupy one of the Wild Card spots in the AL, while the White Sox find themselves above the .500 mark and trailing the Angels by only  a game in the standings. When the White Sox played  the Dodgers, fans saw a sadly declining superstar outfielder in Matt Kemp. With the Angels, by contrast, we will see an aging veteran apparently rejuvenated after two injury-filled seasons, in Albert Pujols. In Mike Trout, we’ll see a young superstar centerfielder who may just be the the greatest all-around young player since Mickey Mantle.

The Angels have a good lineup, one that might remind the White Sox of the best possible version that Robin Ventura at the start of the season planned to use daily before injuries thinned out the available help.

The Angels started the week visiting Houston to play the Astros after a weekend that did not go well. The Angels end the week returning home to play the White Sox having gone 3-7 on their roadtrip and having dropped two of three to the Houston Astros.

The Angels’ lineup got a boost from the return of Kole Calhoun from the DL and to the leadoff spot in the order, where he has been thriving. The lineup also received get help when Josh Hamilton returned on Tuesday after missing two months. However, things took an interesting turn when Trout had to leave Tuesday’s  game with back stiffness.

Angels fans may have momentarily glimpsed a revolving door, with Hamilton walking in as Trout headed out. An MRI reportedly came back clean, but Trout still suffers back inflammation, and he did not play in the field Thursday.

A one-third-of-the-season review and report card for the Angels reveals their hitters have been good but not great, their role players like Calhoun has been great, and their bullpen absolutely dreadful. The Angels bullpen continued to menace their chances of contention Thursday night. It is such a concern that the Los Angeles Times reported this morning that their top draft pick Sean Newcomb could “provide immediate help.” The Angels need the bullpen help, by the way.

The Angels ‘pen  has produced the third-fewest Wins Above Replacement in Major League Baseball ag -0.5, with the fifth-worst ERA at 4.44, and the seventh-worst xFIP at 4.10. Of course, a lot of their woes are being fueled by ridiculously high HR/FB rates on the part of individual pitchers, but the other way to look at that is that they are giving up far too many home runs, particularly for a team that plays in a good pitcher’s park.

On this matter the White Sox have a distinct advantage, for Sox relief pitchers, no matter how walk prone and “entertaining,” do not have gopher-ball problems. Mostly. The starting pitching matchups line up as follows: Friday: Andre Rienzo vs. Jered Weaver. MLB.com looks closer. Saturday: Chris Sale vs. Matt Shoemaker. Sunday: Jose Quintana vs. C.  J. Wilson.

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