Fresh off a come-from-behind win on Saturday, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to continue their recent hot streak against the Boston Red Sox at 8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN. Here are five stats that will surely be talked about during that broadcast.
1-The contest pits two pitchers against each other who like working in Angel Stadium. Jered Weaver’s 54-22 mark (.711 winning percentage) is the best of anyone who has at least 60 decisions there. John Lackey’s 51-32 record (.614 winning percentage) ranks third-best, and includes a 2-0 mark against the Angels.
2—Lackey has been very impressive in his return from injury.
Lackey has located his fastball differently than he had been when he struggled in 2011. He throws about one of every three to the lower-third of the strike zone or below, nearly double how often he threw fastballs there two seasons ago.
John Lackey’s Best 1st Half Performances
This has greatly limited opposing hitters’ ability to make solid contact against him. Opponents have a “hard-hit” average of .124 against Lackey in 2013, a rate that ranks fourth-best in the AL and one that is 79 points below his average from 2009 to 2011.
One matchup to watch with this pitch will be against Mike Trout, who is one of the best hitters in baseball against pitches at the bottom of the strike zone. Trout has hit .383 against fastballs to the lower-third or below and .342 against all pitches to that area over the last two seasons. The latter ranks best in baseball in that span.
Lackey has gone four straight starts with at least seven innings pitched, allowing two earned runs or fewer. That’s his longest streak since 2009.
3- Josh Hamilton is showing signs of life, batting .375 (15-for-40) during his current 11-game hit streak. He has a favorable matchup Sunday. He’s 12-for-27 with four home runs and nine RBI in his career vs. Lackey. The only batters with more home runs off Lackey are Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez (both with five).
Hamilton's timing against hard stuff has been better lately. He had only 20 hits all season against more than fastballs, cutters, and sinkers prior to this streak, but has 10 against the 102 pitches of that type that he's seen in the streak.
4- Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title at the moment. But if you reduce the qualifier his .403 batting average is in historic company.
In the All-Star era (since 1933), only 3 players had a higher batting average at the break among those with 150 plate appearances, and none since Ted Williams’ .405 in 1941 (the year he finished at .406).
5-- Few American League players have been this productive in the first half of a season at age 37 as David Ortiz has been this season. Ortiz currently ranks fifth in the highest OPS by an AL player that age or older prior to the All-Star Break, with a week to go. The three players that rank ahead of him and his 1.007 OPS are Ted Williams (1.121 in 1957), Edgar Martinez (1.114 in 2000) and Babe Ruth (1.028 in 1934 and 1.024 in 1933).
Doug Clawson also contributed to this post