The last time we saw the Angels, the Royals were making quick work of the top-seed in the American League playoffs. Kansas City executed a three-game sweep in the American League Division Series, stunning the Angels and much of baseball. The Angels return in 2015 again as one of the top contenders for the pennant, and looking for some revenge against the Royals.
The Royals split with the Angels during last year's regular season, taking two of three in Anaheim although they did drop their two games at home against hte Royals during the playoffs. The Angels return much of the same club the Royals faced last October in the playoffs, although slugger Josh Hamilton, who looked awful last October, is out with a shoulder injury. The Angels bolstered their outfield offense adding Rays left-handed hitter Matt Joyce, who will be in a platoon-ish situation with Collin Cowgill. The Angels also traded second baseman Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers, although inexplicably with no clear replacement. Former Royals farmhand Johnny Giavotella impressed with a terrific spring training to win the job, and is 4-for-9 so far this season.
The Angels still feature the best hitter on the planet in Mike Trout, who launched a long (but meaningless) home run at Kauffman Stadium the last time we saw him. He has hit the Royals well, with a career line of .361/.460/.694 with 7 HR in 19 games, although the Royals kept him in check in the playoffs with a 1-for-12 performance. Thirty-six year old Albert Pujols is a far cry from his peak, but bounced back well in 2014 after a disastrous 2013 season. The Angels led the league in runs scored last year, and should be near the top again this year.
*-performance for AA Tulsa
The Angels were sixth in the league in runs allowed last season, and were hurt by injuries to young pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Both are still out, and the Angels did nothing this off-season to bolster their starting pitching. Former ace Jered Weaver is 32 years old now, with significant questions surrounding his drop in velocity. The Royals sent C.J. Wilson to the showers early the last time they faced him, but the left-hander bounced back with eight shutout inning in his first start this season against the Mariners. The Royals have struggled mightily against soft-tossing lefty Hector Santiago, scoring just three runs in 30 innings pitched in his career.
Note Saturday's game is a nationally-televised game on Fox Sports One with Kenny Albert, Eric Karros, and Jon Paul Morosi.
Closer Huston Street anchors a bullpen that was seventh in the league in ERA and fourth in strikeouts-per-nine innings last season. Sidearmer Joe Smith serves as the setup man, with righties hitting just .208/.283/.296 against him in his career. Fernando Salas and Shawnee Mission South-grad Mike Morin came on to pitch well for the Angels in the middle innings last year. Inexperienced journeymen Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez will be called on to face left-handers.
The Royals had the Angels' number last fall. If the Royals want to show this hot start is for real, defeating a good team on the road will do a lot to put them on the map as a team to be reckoned with.