Angels look for consistency against Phillies (Aug 01, 2017)

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels have straddled .500 this season more often than John Wayne straddled horses in his entire Western filmography.

As the penultimate month of the season begins, the Angels can still see a wild-card playoff spot in their future, but they must squint to do so. Are they capable? Mike Scioscia says they are.

The Angels manager knows that his team, despite a pitching staff that bears little resemblance to the one planned and an offense that was without Mike Trout for six weeks, can beat the best opponents. He hopes they continue to prove it in a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies that starts Tuesday at Angel Stadium.

In the previous two months, the Angels (51-55) won five series and split two with teams currently holding a postseason ticket — two series wins each against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, one over the Houston Astros, and splits with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals.

“What it tells me is that we can compete with anyone,” Scioscia said. “We’ve shown it. What it also says is that we haven’t done so consistently. It’s the late summer and we’re still not getting enough offensive production.”

Losing to teams in the muddled middle of the AL has offset those nice series wins. The Angels lost series to the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins (twice), Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays during the same period.

That makes the 10-game homestand starting Tuesday night crucial. The Angels host Philadelphia and the Oakland A’s, two teams out of contention, and the Baltimore Orioles, a team that is pretending like the Angels.

Before the month is over, the Angels also will meet Seattle, Texas, Baltimore and Oakland again. They play 19 of 28 August games at home, where they are 27-23. They have just five August games against teams above .500.

The Angels start the run with Ricky Nolasco (4-12, 5.07 ERA), the ace-by-default who can post two consecutive scoreless outings and then allow Texas seven runs and eight runs in 1 2/3 innings.

He has received poor run support all season. Nolasco also has allowed more home runs than any other AL pitcher — 27 in 119 innings, one off his career high set over 212 1/3 innings in 2008. He is 8-7 with a 3.83 ERA in his career against the Phils (23 appearances, 20 starts).

The Phillies (39-64) will start Aaron Nola in the series opener. The right-hander has made seven consecutive quality starts (48 1/3 innings, 33 hits, 1.48 ERA, just four home runs). Nola (8-6, 3.17 ERA) will be facing the Angels for the first time.

“I can’t say enough about him, he’s been outstanding,” Phils manager Pete Mackanin said of Nola after his last start. “We’re all really happy about the progress he’s made. He’s turned the corner, I think. I don’t have enough accolades for him.”

Catcher Cameron Rupp said, “He’s been outstanding the last month and a half. He’s back to being the Aaron he was when he first came up (in 2015). He’s a guy that can lead a pitching staff. He’s got three pitches that he can put you away with. When you do that, you’re going to have a lot of success.”