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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, April 4-6, 2014

Astros played spoiler in 2013 against the Angels, will be more of the same in 2014.

Bob Levey

Houston Astros (2-1) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (0-3)

Angels See Opening in the AL West

The landscape of the American League West changed dramatically in the final weeks of Spring Training with injuries for the Rangers and Athletics. Gone was the A's pitching depth, and the Rangers look more like a M.A.S.H. unit than a baseball team. In steps the Angels, a team loaded with firepower and a ton of questions. What do Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols have left in the tank? Will Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson be enough at the top of the Halos rotation? If not, who will setup in the rotation? Have bullpen problems been fixed, it hasn't been the same since Bud Black left?

Questions abound but there is at least one answer - Mike Trout is awesome. Trout personifies the ideal baseball player in the major leagues today, versatile in every way. Trout got on base 43 percent of the time last season and collected 75 extra base hits in 2014. Through three games Trout has an 1.500 OPS, with three extra base hits and 3 runs batted in. Trout moved back to his natural position of center after the trade of Peter Bourjos, that brought David Freese west. Freese hoping to bounce back from his rough 2013 with his new team, he has one hit through 10 at-bats this season.

The Angels made another big trade this offseason, Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks for pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs. Sending the message that they were going all in on Kole Calhoun. Calhoun will be batting in the leadoff spot after posting a .347 OBP and .311 BABIP in 2013. Raul Ibanez stays in the AL West and joined the Angels this offseason, old man Ibanez has one home run and seven strikeouts in 11 at-bats (Rick Ankiel says hi). The bottom of the Angels lineup is struggle mightily- Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and Chris Iannetta have one hit between them in 27 at-bats.

At this point it's clear that the best days for Josh Hamilton are behind him, but he still has enough power to remind of the glory days. He is protecting what appears to be a healthy Albert Pujols. Pujols once again has the ability to propel him forward faster than a trout. He moved well during the spring, and has two double already this season.

Astros appear to have the formula

Dexter Fowler's new catch phrase should be "speak softly, and carry a big stick". Fowler thumped Yankee pitching for six hits, four for extra bases, and scored five runs. Jose Altuve could do no wrong on opening day, he has come back down to earth - collecting one over the last two games. Robbie Grossman currently has a .733 OPS in the two hole through three games.

Marc Krauss and Chris Carter haven't been able to shake of the rust, and look overmatched in the first series of the year.

Jason Castro is day-to-day after being hit by two pitches in Thursday's game. Dexter Fowler is home with a stomach virus.

Pitching Matchups

RHP Lucas Harrell (6-17/ 5.86 ERA / 1.70 WHIP in 2013)  vs. RHP Garrett Richards (7-8/ 4.16 ERA / 1.34 WHIP in 2013)

The Lucas Harrell experiment begins, during Fanfest Bo Porter called Harrell "clearly a starter". Which I took as to say either he will be in the rotation come opening day or he won't be wearing an Astros uniform in 2014. The former of the two has happened. As a starter, Harrell was 5-12 with a 5.98 ERA in 2013, complaining about shifts as he left the Astros rotation. Take away a 9-run outing the spring, the righthander was stellar 4 runs over 13.1 innings of work. David Freese (5-12) and Howie Kendrick (4-7) have had field days with Harrell in their career at-bats.

Garret Richards spent much of 2013 in the pen for the Angels, making 30 of 47 appearances in relief. Richards works with a mid-90s fastball/slider combo.

LHP Dallas Keuchel (6-10/ 5.15 ERA / 1.54 WHIP in 2013)  vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-3 / 5.12 ERA / 1.37 WHIP in 2013)

Dallas Keuchel in the rotation is a bit of an odd choice, he gave up 15 earned runs in his final three appearances this spring. Keuchel has answered the bell whenever called upon. He will live and die by the ground ball, sporting a groundball to flyball ratio of 2.09. Erick Aybar is batting .500 in 10 at-bats against the left-hander, David Freese is 2-for-3 with a homerun, and Chris Iannetta is 3-for-8 with a double and home run. Keuchel has kept Mike Trout in check, allowing two hits over seven at-bats.

Tyler Skaggs has a fastball that tops out at around 95 mph. He posted at 4.59 ERA and 3.44 FIP in AAA Reno for the Diamondbacks in 2013.

RHP Scott Feldman  (1-0/ 0.00 ERA/ 0.60 WHIP) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (0-1/4.26 ERA /1.42 WHIP)

Feldman was as masterful in his opening day start as CC Sabathia was bad on opening day. The righthander allowed only two hits and two walks over 6.2 scoreless innings. Feldman was able to attack the zone with a soft six-run lead. Erick Aybar has owned Feldman his career, batting .476 with four extra base hits. Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols have one hit between them against Feldman in six at-bats. Richards made two starts against the Astros in 2013, allowing 9 runs over 12.1 innings.

Jered Weaver is as crafty a pitcher you will find the majors, working with high 80's fastball has not stopped him from succeeding. Weaver appear to have some health problem during his first start of 2014, throwing up during the game. He was still able to keep his team in the game, allowing only three earned runs over 6.1 innings while striking out six. Jose Altuve was 2-for-3 in their one meeting last year.

RHP Jarred Cosart (1-0 / 0.00 ERA / 0.80 WHIP in 2013)  vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (0-1/9.53 ERA/ 1.76 WHIP)

Jarred Cosart showed what he could do when locates his locates his pitches, completely dominate a team with ease. He completely manhandled the Yankees, allowing four hits and walking none over five innings. Raul Ibanez is the only Angels hitter to face Cosart in the regular season in 2013, facing to get a hit.

C.J. Wilson went not be a spokesperson for hair products, pitches for the Angels. He had a up and down performance in his first start, striking out eight but giving up six runs in the start. WIlson may have been just what the doctor ordered for Chris Carter, who has a .353 OBP against the lefty with two extra base hits in 15 at-bats.