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Game #48 Preview: Richards vs Happ

Angels (26-21) vs Blue Jays (22-25)

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays welcome Mike Trout and Angels into town for a 3 game series, starting tonight at 7:07 ET.

Blue Jays’ Starter

J.A. Happ starts game 1 for the Jays. Through his first 9 starts, Happ is 5-3 with a 4.15 ERA. After a pair of rough outings, Happ rebounded in his last start against the Mets, throwing 7 shutout innings allowing 2 hits while striking out 10. It was the third time this season that Happ has struck out at least 9 batters while walking none.

Happ’s ability to generate strikeouts this season has been impressive. His 11.42 K/9 is 6th among qualified starters in the Majors, and his K-BB% is 8th, at 24.7%. If he can somehow keep those numbers in that range while reducing his home runs against, he could be looking at making his first All Star Game.

Angels’ Starter

Garrett Richards gets the start for the Angels. On the season, he is 4-2 with a 3.47 ERA, putting up a good strikeout rate (10.22 per 9 innings) but also walking a lot (4.05 per 9 innings). But as a groundball pitcher without a ridiculously high HR/FB rate, Richards’ FIP sits at 3.94 despite the high walk rate.

Richards is coming off one of his best starts of the season his last time out. In 7 innings against the Astros, he allowed a pair of unearned runs and only 1 walk. In fact, he has only walked 2 over his last 3 starts and 19 innings, which may indicate that his walk problems that are hurting his FIP are something he has gotten over, and he’ll be even better going forward.

It would be reasonable to assume that he isn’t going to walk 4 per 9 innings going forward too. The majority of his walks (12 of his 21) came in his first 3 starts (first 15 of his 46.2 innings), showcasing rust that is understandable for a guy who only made a dozen starts across 2016 and 2017. Now that he’s back in the groove, he’s probably one of the most important pitchers on the Angels staff. Halo’s Heaven has a much more in depth write up about him.

One other stat I’d like to highlight - in Richards’ 2 full seasons, as well as this year already, he lead the league in wild pitches. So the Jays runners (I’m hoping for plural) will need to be ready to advance.

Blue Jays’ Lineup

The Blue Jays carousel of roster transactions resulted in Richard Urena being optioned after Sunday’s beatdown. There hasn’t been a corresponding roster move announced, but it’s coming. It hasn’t been 10 days for Lourdes Gurriel; Aledmys Diaz isn’t healthy yet; Devon Travis, despite his 8 game hitting streak, is still hitting poorly; and Tulo is an LOL. So unless there is a corresponding DL move to allow Gurriel to come up sooner than he’s otherwise allowed, stay tuned for an intriguing roster move today.

Elsewhere around the lineup, we’ll see Granderson against the righty. I would imagine there isn’t much different than normal anywhere else. With Morales collecting a pair of hits on Sunday, he’s likely out there at DH again.

Angels’ Lineup

This is a roster filled with some really exciting players.

Albert Pujols has the highest WAR of any player in the 21st century (although he’s about to be passed by the retired Alex Rodriguez).

Mike Trout will pass Pujols (or A-Rod, or possibly Beltre?) for highest WAR of the 21st century in 3-4 years or so.

Andrelton Simmons is arguably the best defensive player to ever touch a baseball.

Justin Upton and Zach Cozart are pretty awesome players.

The catching tandem of Rene Rivera and Martin Maldonado is one of the best in baseball.

Kole Calhoun is off to a terrible start to his season, but is normally pretty great.

And some guy name Shohei Ohtani occasionally DHs. He has a 167 wRC+ across 90 PA.

Collectively they have a 105 wRC+ and are 5th in all of baseball with an 8.3 WAR.

Yesterday’s Heroes

Mark Reynolds of the Nationals had the monster bat yesterday, going 3-5 with a pair of home runs, as he lead his Nats to the 10-2 win over the Padres.

Nick Pivetta of the Phillies threw 7 shutout innings, allowing 4 hits and issuing a walk. His efforts lead to a .465 WPA and the title of WPA King as the Phillies beat the Braves 3-0.

But 7 innings wasn’t enough, as Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals went the full 9, shutting out the Royals on 4 hits and a walk in the Cards 6-0 to take the Pitcher of the Day honours.

Milestone Watch

Josh Donaldson? He still plays baseball right? If anyone sees him, tell him to start hitting like he used to. He’s been 3 back of Shawn Green in the HR department for far too long.

J.A. Happ is 17 strikeouts back of Tom Henke for 11th all time as a Blue Jay. He’s not likely to get there this time, but there’s a decent chance he gets there in his next start.

Find the Link

Find the link between Richards and the Japanese sensation who went from the Golden Eagles to the Yankees before the 2014 season.