Pujols closing in on 600 homers as Angels host Braves (May 31, 2017)
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Angels will face the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, their third game in a row without Mike Trout in the lineup or manning center field because of a torn ligament in his left thumb that will keep him out six to eight weeks.
The first two games saw Albert Pujols hit in Trout's usual No. 3 spot in the batting order while Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr. each made a start in center field. Maybin will get most of the starts in center, but he strained a muscle in his side on Monday and was out of the lineup on Tuesday.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia likes to mix and match his lineups, so picking up the slack for Trout will require help from all over the roster.
"I think you'll feel that impact," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Monday. "The team will require multiple people stepping up in his absence. The team will continue to fight, as it always does, but you know you're losing the heart of your order and the heart of your defense and a leader in the dugout and on the bench. It's something to absorb, there's no doubt. But I know the guys in the clubhouse will do their darnedest to absorb it."
Left-hander Jaime Garcia (2-3, 3.58 ERA) will start for Atlanta, only his second career appearance against the Angels. In the other one, on May 11, 2016, he limited the Angels to two unearned runs in seven innings and earned the victory.
Garcia has pitched better than his record would indicate this year, and he is coming off his best start of the season. Last Friday at San Francisco, Garcia threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out five.
"No. 1 is being able to keep the ball down, keep the ball on the ground," Garcia told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "That's my game, that's what I try to do every time I take the mound. And then use my off-speed the right way, keep them off-balance and execute pitches on both sides of the plate."
Garcia also will try to avoid being on the wrong side of history, as Pujols is one home run away from becoming the ninth player in major league history to hit 600. Pujols is 1-for-3 with a single and a strikeout against Garcia in his career.
Jesse Chavez will start for the Angels, but which Chavez will show up Wednesday is anybody's guess. Chavez (4-6, 5.09 ERA) has made four starts in which he gave up two runs or fewer, but three starts in which he allowed at least five runs.
Chavez is coming off his worst outing of the season, when he lasted a season-low 3 2/3 innings and gave up five runs and eight hits in a loss at Miami on Friday. According to Chavez, his success, or lack thereof, all comes down to his execution, regardless of the opponent.
"At the end of the day, it's just a battle between myself ... between me and my mechanics," Chavez told the Orange County Register. "I'm trying to find that drive to each side of the plate."