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A's, Angels prepare for crucial weekend series

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For the second strait weekend the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will meet with first place in the american league west up for grabs. When they last met in Oakland August 22nd through August 24th the Angels barely managed to escape with a one game lead intact thanks to an offensive surge in the finale of the series that powered them to a 9-4 rout. In the two games prior to the rout however, the Athletics' pitching managed to keep the Angels offense in check holding them to just a combined four runs in the series' first two games leading Oakland to victory on both occasions.

The results of the Oakland series really are testaments to the strengths and weaknesses of both ball clubs. Since acquiring Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox the Athletics have boasted the second best pitching staff in the american league. This dominant pitching is what has allowed Oakland to remain among baseball's elite in 2014. The Jon Lester deal may also have uncovered a new weakness in Oakland's armor however as in order to acquire the left handed starter the A's had to give up Cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes who prior to the trade had driven in 67 runs and belted 17 home runs for them. Without the power threat of Cespedes in the lineup, the A's now seem like a team that is less capable of keeping up in an offensive slug-fest type of game.

In exact contrast to Oakland, the Angels are a team who have relied heavily on their high power offense but have been hindered at times by inconsistent starting pitching. The Angels recently lost ace Garrett Richards for the remainder of the season to a leg injury and at the moment remain without a fifth starter in their rotation. Normally a team who's staring pitching is in the condition that the Angels' is in would be limping towards the end of the season but the high scoring Anaheim offense has willed the Angels to the best record in baseball. Though Mike Trout is the obvious catalyst for the offense the keys to the Angels' production reside within Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton whose on and off again struggles have really dictated just how much bite the Angels offense has carried at any given time during the season.

Going into this weekend's match up the A's and Angels account for the two highest ranked offenses in baseball with Oakland actually having scored more runs than Anaheim but the Angels leading in categories like hits and batting average. It is entirely possible that the series may translate into an offensive shootout, which would favor the Angels, but it is also entirely possible that it could translate into a pitching duel, which would favor the Athletics.

The upcoming series does yield some interesting pitching match ups with Sonny Gray going against C.J. Wilson on Thursday night and Jon Lester throwing versus Jered Weaver on Friday. Scott Kazmir is scheduled to start for the A's on Saturday with Jeff Samardzija getting the nod on Sunday. Kazmir will be looking to redeem himself after giving up seven earned runs in his start against the Angels last weekend. It is still unclear who the Angels will start in the Saturday and Sunday games given that they have yet to name a fifth starter in their rotation. Recent speculation suggests however that reliever Cory Rasmus will be the one to get the start on Saturday meaning Matt Shoemaker will likely start on Sunday.

After this series the A's and Angels will only face off against one another one more time on September 22nd through September 24th in Oakland meaning that whoever wins this series could very well hold the divisional lead through the month of September until the final meeting. So far the Athletics have won eight of twelve games against the Angels this season but the Angels won two out of three games the last time the two clubs met in Anaheim June 9th through June 11th.

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