Angels and Dodgers: A possible World Series preview?

Updated: June 18, 2009

Kim Klement-US Presswire

A big key for the Angels will be getting Ervin Santana healthy and pitching well again.

This Dodgers heading over to play the Angels is definitely the best interleague series of the weekend. It's the best team in the NL against the hottest team in the AL. It is still very early, but the case can easily be made that this could end up being a World Series preview if the Angels continue to hit the way they've hit.

Featured Series: Dodgers at Angels
FRIDAY
Dodgers (Chad Billingsley) at Angels (Joe Saunders), 10:05 ET
SATURDAY
Dodgers (Jeff Weaver) at Angels (Jered Weaver), 9:05 ET
SUNDAY
Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) at Angels (John Lackey), 8:05 ET, ESPN

The Texas Rangers still lead the AL West, but it seems as if the Angels are starting to pick up some steam and are gaining ground. The key to the Angels' success is getting Ervin Santana completely healthy and figuring out whether Kelvim Escobar can help them at all this year in a starting role or a bullpen role. If their pitching improves, they could be a very, very good team by the end of the season.

On the other hand, the Dodgers don't have much to worry about. They have been the best team in the NL all year, and they've done most of it without Manny Ramirez. They have the best infield defense in the NL, and their starting pitching has been better than most thought it would be.

This makes for a very good series. To add just a little more interest to this meeting, you have a sibling matchup set for Saturday, with Jeff and Jared Weaver pitching against each other. You've got to love that. There is also a pretty good matchup on "Sunday Night Baseball," with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw up against the Angels' John Lackey. So there's really nothing to dislike about this series at Angel Stadium.

The Dodgers have done a nice job of scoring runs, averaging five runs a game and, again, they've done it mostly without having Ramirez in the middle of the lineup. They've got tremendous help in their bullpen from guys they didn't expect to get much out of. Ramon Troncoso has been terrific. The kid who, at one time, was nearly the final pitcher on the Dodgers' roster is walking around with a 2.34 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

The Dodgers are only going to get better once they get to put Manny back in the order. Manager Joe Torre will have a good problem to deal with, figuring out what to do with Juan Pierre, who has played so well while Ramirez has been out. Torre is going to have to mix and match his players in the outfield a little more than he ever has had to in an effort to keep everyone happy. In theory, that could be the only downside to Manny's coming back. But I think the Dodgers can play even better than this, and that's saying a lot.

The Angels lead the major leagues in batting average at .282, and even though they are 12th in runs scored, they are really starting to make a move offensively. We're starting to see a little bit more from Vladimir Guerrero now that he's getting healthier. The Angels are clearly on the rise now, so the Rangers are really going to have to play well to hold them off because right now the Angels are charging. We've seen the Angels do this before, but when they start to charge, they can be very difficult to beat.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: June 17 | June 16 | June 15 | June 14 | June 11

TOUCH 'EM ALL

Touch 'Em AllWho went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and on the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page.

For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.

Home Run Tracker
NAME HR OPPPITCHER SITUATION
R. Chavez, Tor2PhiBlantonTop 2: 3-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.
J. Werth, Phi12TorMillsBot 2: 0-2, 0 Outs. None on.
M. Diaz, Atl3CinMaloneyTop 4: 0-2, 1 Outs. None on.
M. Cuddyer, Min10PitDukeBot 6: 2-0, 1 Outs. None on.
J. Rollins, Phi6TorMillsBot 4: 2-2, 2 Outs. 1 on.
N. McLouth, Atl11CinMaloneyTop 5: 0-0, 1 Outs. 1 on.
J. Mayberry Jr., Phi2TorHayhurstBot 5: 0-1, 2 Outs. None on.
B. Buscher, Min2PitChavezBot 8: 0-1, 2 Outs. 1 on.

The complete list of Thursday's homers

ON DECK: WEEKEND WATCH

Rays at Mets

The Mets have kept pace in the NL East most of the year, and the Rays have tightened the gap in the AL East a bit with a good June. Tampa Bay opened the month with a four-game winning streak. After a brief three-game skid, the Rays rattled off a six-game winning streak to move back over .500.

Yankees at Marlins

A rematch of the 2003 World Series, which marked the last time the Yankees reached the Fall Classic. Florida, behind the arm of Josh Beckett, won that series 4-2. Beckett won't be around this time. Instead, the Marlins will send Sean West, Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad to the mound. For the Marlins, it will be a second consecutive matchup against the AL East's upper crust, having faced the Red Sox earlier in the week.

Rangers at Giants

The Giants have had an uneven run so far in interleague games against the AL West. They swept Oakland, holding the A's to three runs over three games. Then the Angels came visiting, and the Giants lost all three as the pitchers served up 21 runs over those three games. The Rangers still rely heavily on power; they are second in the majors behind the Yankees in home runs.

For the rest of Friday's schedule, click here. To see what's on tap for Saturday, click here. And for Sunday's full slate of games, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: SATURDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Eric Young
12 a.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Fernando Vina, Eric Young

BBTN ON THE AIR: SUNDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
12:30 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, John Kruk, Chris Singleton
7 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, John Kruk, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: BROTHERS WEAVER

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at Toronto's Marco Scutaro, who has been on quite a roll lately:

Scutaro (past 12 games)
BA .340
Runs 9
Pitches faced 225
Starting pitchers who won 4
Pitches per PA 395

Scutaro has been patient. He has seen 62 pitches in his past 11 plate appearances. On Thursday, he saw 39 pitches, the most in a nine-inning game this season.

WEB GEMS

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Mike MacDougal• The Nationals needed five pitchers against the Yankees on Thursday. Need that many pitchers, usually it's bad news. Not this time. The collection, beginning with starter Craig Stammen and ending with Mike MacDougal (right), shut out the Yanks in the first game without a homer in new Yankee Stadium. New York got seven hits, with only one coming off the bullpen.
WORST
Scott Linebrink• The White Sox were leading 5-1 against the Cubs with two outs in the eighth, but the White Sox bullpen could not hold on. Scott Linebrink gave up four runs in the eighth as the Cubs tied it, and Matt Thornton gave up the final run in the ninth as the Cubs pulled out a 6-5 win.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Randy Johnson Randy Johnson has had an up-and-down 2009 in San Francisco. He lost his first two starts and saw his ERA balloon to 11.42. Then, on June 4, Johnson won his 300th career game when the Giants beat the Nationals 5-1 in Washington.

Johnson is now 6-5 on the season, and it has been a tale of two different pitchers in Johnson's wins compared with his losses. On his off nights, Johnson hasn't been able to get batters out in pitcher's counts or with his fastball.

Batting average against Johnson (2009)
In six wins In five losses
Pitcher ahead .151 .333
First pitch .125 .500
vs. fastball .140 .395

Note: Does not include Johnson's two no-decisions.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF FRIDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Friday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Friday. Daily Notes