For the Angels, it was an early season series and few conclusions could be drawn. Their opponents were so formidable.
The Oakland Athletics are a major league team in name only, their talent level a reflection of how little money owner John Fisher invests in his product.
With Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani hitting back-to-back at-bats, the Angels cruised to a 6-0 victory over this collection of pitchers on Sunday for their second win in a three-game series at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Angels may not have said it out loud, but they went into their next series in Seattle knowing that at least they wouldn’t finish last in their division. What kind of team they really are, the answer will come soon.
They host the Mariners for three games, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals. The series against the Nationals will be followed by a layoff, leading to a seven-week stretch that may not make his season, but could certainly break it.
Beginning on April 14, the Angels will play 49 games in 52 days.
“It’s a rough stretch,” Trout said.
A particularly heavy stretch of the schedule opens with a seven-game road trip that includes visits from the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, and ends with another one against the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros.
Speaking of the Astros, the defending World Series champions and AL West favorites will have six days off in the same 52-day span.
To navigate this range, the Angels will need to answer questions about their roster.
About their position player depth.
About their rotation depth.
About their bullpen.
And perhaps most importantly, about their ability to handle Trout and Anthony Rendon, who have missed significant chunks of the previous two seasons.
Angels center fielder Mike Trout rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
(Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press)
“Obviously when you see the schedule come out and you see that, especially early in the year, you’ve got to keep your body healthy,” Trout said. “My mentality is to play every day and see where it goes. (Director Phil Nevin) and if the front office says you have to sit down, I’ll listen to them. Of course, if I feel good and want to get in there, I will fight.”
The Angels scored 13 points in Game 2 in Oakland, a game that featured Ohtani, Trout and Rendon. Figured Rendon would play the entire three-game series in Seattle this week, the Angels did not play in the series finale on Sunday.
The Angels still scored six runs, the first three on rookie catcher Logan O’Hoppe’s first homer.
“We’ve added some guys that can play and you’re seeing it,” Trout said, referring to general manager Perry Minasian’s offseason acquisitions such as Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Drury.
The extra firepower is a necessary luxury, as Trout and Rendon figure to be rested from time to time. Regardless, Rendon will likely face a suspension for grabbing a fan by the shirt on opening night.
Tyler Anderson, a shortstop with the Dodgers last year, pitched six scoreless innings in his Angels debut Sunday. The Angels signed Anderson to a three-year, $39 million deal in hopes of stabilizing their rotation.
The plan to start Ohtani as a pitcher every six days calls for the Angels to have six starters. Whether they can do it effectively will depend on the progress made by 23-year-old Reid Detmers and 25-year-old Jose Suarez. The team was encouraged by No. 6 starter Tucker Davidson’s four innings in relief of Patrick Sandoval on Saturday.
The bullpen remains the biggest source of concern. After Aaron Loup and Ryan Tepera combined to give up two runs that cost them their season opener, the team recorded six scoreless innings, but how much of that was due to the quality of the Angels’ arms and how much was still anyone’s guess. Bad news for the lack of quality in A’s lineup.
Results aside, it’s obvious that there are no high-velocity pitchers in the bullpen.
The moment of truth is approaching for the Angels, and it is approaching faster than usual.
By the time they leave Houston in the first week of June, they will know if they are true contenders.