Mike Trout is coming off an MVP performance in the All-Star Game as he prepares to lead the Angels into action against the Red Sox this weekend. (Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images)

Red Sox-Angels series preview

July 17, 2015 - 6:28 am
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Coming out of the All-Star break, the Red Sox open the unofficial second half of the season on the West Coast. While their home diamond at Fenway Park is occupied by the likes of Billy Joel and the Foo Fighters, the Sox are in Southern California to take on the Angels.

After a dismal first half, the Red Sox were able to gather some momentum in advance of the break. The Sox won nine of their last 13 contests, improving their record to 42-47 on the season. However, they dropped two of three to the Yankees in the final series before the break and remain 6 1/2 games behind New York and in last place in the AL East.

The Red Sox are, however, closer to the other teams in the division. The Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays have stumbled lately, and the Sox now are just three games behind the Rays for second place in the division.

Red Sox president and CEO Larry Lucchino told Dennis & Callahan on Thursday that he has been unhappy with the team's first half.

"I am a bit disappointed," Lucchino said. "We showed flashes of what he hoped for in the last month or so. The team has been playing awfully well going back a month or so. It's been more like the team we expected to have. Things happen. No one in the front office is going to get it right 100 percent of the time and you're going to have unexpected things occur during the course of the season. On balance, we expected to be closer than 6 1/2 games at this point."

The Angels, meanwhile, surged to a lead in the AL West late in the first half. The Astros had surprised the American League and all of baseball by taking a lead in the division into July. However, Houston then stumbled and Los Angeles heated up.

The Angels are owners of a 48-40 record and a half-game lead on the Astros (who have lost six straight and eight of 10). The Angels have won 11 of their last 14 games.

On the season, the Angels have been mediocre offensively, despite the firepower provided by the likes of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The Angels have scored 368 runs, placing them 16th in baseball and 10th in the American League. They have an 18th-ranked .250 team batting average, and are 16th in team OPS at .710.

On the hill, the Angels have been slightly better relative to the rest of the league. The team's ERA is 11th in baseball and fifth in the AL at 3.64. The team's 3.71 starters ERA is third best in the AL, behind only the Rays and A's.

However, the Angels' stats predictably have been better as their record has improved. In July, while they have won seven of 10, the Angels are second in baseball in runs scored. They, too, are second in team batting average, hitting a whopping .307. They are seventh in the AL in ERA at 3.38 during July.

"It was like, 'When are we going to turn this thing around?' " Pujols said from the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. "I know our offense wasn't clicking all year long, but I kept [saying] it'll happen. You can't force stuff. It'll happen, because we know that we have the ball club to do that; we know that we have the talent."

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday: Wade Miley (8-8, 4.80 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (7-7, 3.83 ERA) Saturday: Rick Porcello (5-9, 5.90 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (9-6, 3.53 ERA) Sunday: Eduardo Rodriguez (5-2, 3.59 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (6-4, 2.33 ERA) Monday: Brian Johnson (season debut) vs. Andrew Heaney (3-0, 1.32 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- Mookie Betts is quickly transforming into one of the best young outfielders in baseball. He ranks ninth in total WAR in all of baseball, according to ESPN.com. He is hitting .277 with 10 homers and 43 RBIs on the year and has hit .302 with a .922 OPS in the last 10 games.

-- As good as Betts has been, he may not be the best 22-year-old on the team. The honor could be given to Xander Bogaerts, who is hitting .304 on the season. In July, Bogaerts is hitting .395.

-- Continuing the Red Sox' up-and-coming brigade, the team's only All-Star was super utilityman Brock Holt. Holt has hit .316 in the month of July and has a .292 average on the season.

WHO'S HOT: ANGELS

-- Mike Trout is one of the best, if not the best, players in baseball. He was named All-Star Game MVP on Tuesday for the second straight year, following an incredible first half. He is hitting .312 with 26 home runs and 55 RBIs. In 10 July games alone, Trout has six home runs and 12 RBIs.

-- Erick Aybar is having a solid season, hitting .287 with 93 hits. In his last 1o games, the shortstop is hitting .450, going 18-for-40 with five doubles and four RBIs.

-- Outfielder Kole Calhoun has heated up. The 27-year-old is hitting .289 with three homers and 11 RBIs this month, accruing a .904 OPS.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- Mike Napoli has struggled all year and has continued to struggle lately. He has hit an ugly .115 in the last eight games, striking out eight times in that span. He has dipped below the Mendoza line on the season, with a batting average of .193.

-- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has yet to prove himself worthy of the five-year, $95 million contract the Red Sox gave him this past winter. The Panda is hitting just .265 with seven homers and 30 RBIs. In July he has an average of .256 and has only a single extra-base hit in 10 games.

-- Rick Porcello, too, has fallen well below the expectations that accompanied his offseason contract signing. The right-hander singed a four-year, $82.5 million deal after being traded to the Sox, but he has pitched to a 5-9 record and 5.90 ERA on the season.

WHO'S NOT: ANGELS

-- All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols has had an impressive season, but he hasn't hit particularly well lately. He has an average of just .190 in the month of July.

-- Outfielder Matt Joyce, too, has stumbled to a .190 batting average in the month of July. Joyce, in his first year in Anaheim after six seasons with the Rays, has struck out five times and knocked just five hits.

-- In 58 games this season, catcher Chris Iannetta has hit only .191 with a .610 OPS. The Providence native has five home runs and 19 RBIs.

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