Opposite dugout: Pitching a question as Angels make playoff push

AngelsLogo.jpgManager: Mike Scioscia (18th season)

Record: 61-58

Last 10 games: 7-3

Who to watch: CF Mike Trout (.341, 23 HR, 55 RBIs), DH Albert Pujols (17 HR), SS Andrelton Simmons (.301, 55 RBIs, 17 SB), LF Cameron Maybin (25 SB), RHP Bud Norris (18 saves)

Season series vs. Nationals: 1-1

Pitching probables:

Aug. 15: LHP Tyler Skaggs vs. LHP Gio Gonzalez, 7:05 p.m., MASN
Aug. 16: RHP Ricky Nolasco vs. RHP Tanner Roark, 1:05 p.m., MASN

Inside the Angels:

The Angels have hovered around .500 for most of the year, a condition more or less reflective of their pitching and offensive production levels: respectable, often impressive, but not overwhelming. It also means the Angels are still very much alive in the American League playoff chase. Coming into tonight's game, they are alone in the second wild card slot. And as they've just swept the division-rival Mariners in Seattle, they come into D.C. riding high.

The Halos, of course, have two-time American League Most Valuable Player (and the guy who came in second in the voting for each of his other four big league seasons) Mike Trout (.341/.468/.690). Since returning from a six-week stay on the disabled list on July 14, he's batted .367, driven in 19 runs and hit seven homers. It hasn't hurt Trout to be batting in front of three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols (.230/.272/.376), though the 37-year-old's average and home run total aren't what they've been in years past. The Nats saw a lot of shortstop Andrelton Simmons (.301/.355/.457) until last season, his first in Anaheim after being traded by the Braves in a five-player deal. Consistently a superior glove, Simmons has gotten better with the bat each year since his first full big league season in 2013. He took an 0-fer in the two games with the Nats in mid-July. Since then, he hadn't gone hitless in consecutive games until this past weekend, and Simmons has hit .362 over that time. First baseman C.J. Cron (.260/.309/.443) got hot last week, and has six multi-hit games in the first two weeks of August. Left fielder Cameron Maybin's on-base percentage is nothing special, but once Maybin (.234/.335/.358) gets on base, you best keep an eye on him. He's swiped 25 bags and has been caught only five times in 2017. And he's not the only Angel who can fly. Simmons, Trout and former National Ben Revere (.252/.284/.322) - who has been splitting time with Maybin in left - each have double-digit steals totals. Catcher Martín Maldonado (.234/.300/.389) has performed exceptionally behind the plate, throwing out 40 percent of would-be basestealers and posting a .999 fielding percentage.

Tyler Skaggs (1-2, 3.63 ERA) tonight makes his third start since his return from a three-month stay on the disabled list with an oblique strain. Skaggs last pitched on Thursday against Seattle, giving up three runs on six hits over 6 1/3 innings. The lefty gets ground balls with his changeup and a curveball with bite. Right-handed hitters are nearly 70 points better than lefties against him. Sinker-slider guy Ricky Nolasco (5-12, 5.24 ERA) starts the getaway game tomorrow afternoon. The longtime Marlin seemed to benefit from the change of scenery last year when the Twins traded him to the Angels, after which Nolasco knocked almost two runs off his ERA. This year, however, the right-hander has struggled in many of his appearances, with the notable exception of his complete-game shutout of the Mariners on July 1. He worked against them again in Seattle last Friday, and had the good fortune to get no decision despite allowing five runs on seven hits over five innings. Nolasco's most obvious shortcoming shows up in the longball department, as he has given up 30 homers in 24 games.

Reliever Yusmeiro Petit (3-0, 2.36 ERA) has cut his ERA by better than two runs since he worked out of the Nationals bullpen in 2016. Scioscia has used Petit in multiple innings routinely, and he's gone as many as four frames. Righty Blake Parker (3-2, 2.39 ERA) has been money in the seventh or eighth inning, and three of his 13 holds have come in his last three appearances. The closer situation in Anaheim is less than clear. August has been a mixed bag for converted veteran starter Bud Norris (2-5, 4.60) and right-hander Cam Bedrosian (2-2, 3.67) seems just as likely to get the ball in the ninth. Bedrosian has four saves, including an Aug. 10 appearance in Seattle in which he struck out two.

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