After a slow start, the Los Angeles Angels are right back in the thick of the playoff race. The Chicago White Sox weren’t expected to be contenders this year, but they continue to lead the AL Central. This is a potential playoff preview on the south side of Chicago. TBS will have national coverage of this game Sunday afternoon.
The Angels looked like they would be the most disappointing team in baseball through the season’s first two months, but they have come on in a big way of late. Mike Trout has been the MVP of this team, and he may well be the American League MVP as a rookie. Trout is hitting .349 with 19 homers and 33 stolen bases. It doesn’t hurt that Albert Pujols has gotten red hot after a horribly slow start. Pujols has six home runs in the team’s last five games. His average was below .200 through more than 40 games, but he is up to .289 now. Mark Trumbo is having a breakout season for the Angels as well. This is a very dangerous offense.
Dan Haren will be on the mound for the Angels in this one. Haren has been great in the last couple years, but he is just 8-8 with a 4.59 ERA so far this year. He has dealt with some minor injuries through the season. Overall, the Los Angeles pitching staff ranks 15th in the majors with a team ERA of 3.96.
Francisco Liriano was a key pickup for the White Sox before the trade deadline. Chicago has an Ace in Chris Sale, but they needed some depth in the rotation and Liriano should provide that. Phillip Humber and Gavin Floyd have been disappointing this year, so the team needs someone to step up in the third and fourth spot in the rotation. Liriano gave up only two earned runs in six innings in his first outing with the team last week.
The White Sox success this year can be traced directly to the huge improvement in several hitters who struggled so badly a year ago. Adam Dunn hit .159 with 11 homers last year. He leads the team with 31 homers and 74 RBI’s so far in 2012. Alex Rios batted .227 in 2011, but he leads the team with a .317 average this year. Rios has ten hits in the team’s last five games. Alejandro De Aza has been a great leadoff hitter for the team. Chicago ranks sixth in the majors in runs scored at 4.77 runs per game.
MLB Free Pick: Angels ML
The Angels are 8-0 in their last 8 road games against a left-handed pitcher. Los Angeles doesn’t have quite the record that the White Sox do right now, but I think the Angels have the better team. Look for the Angels to win this one behind the strength of their offense.