Houston Astros (16-28) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24-19)
The Astros head west, winner of two straight series for the first time since mid-August 2013. The Angels come into the series - winners of three straight series, including three of four form the Rays over the weekend. The last time these two teams meet, the Angels zapped all of the good will from the Opening Series with the Yankees by winning 3-of-4 in Houston. Which included a 9-1 day game win by the Angles that registered a 0.0 on the nielsen ratings. The Astros hope to change their fortunes this time around against the Angels in Anaheim, where they were 7-3 last season.
It's Trout's world, we're just living in it...
As previously noted the Angels are coming in on a role with a record of 8-2 in their last ten games. They are lead by their centerfielder Mike Trout. You may have heard of him before. Trout has taken the mantle of the top young baseball player in majors, he can do it all. He has shown some vulnerabilities this season; he is currently second in the league in strikeouts at 55, only be hind B.J. Upton (56). He strikeout percentage is currently seven percent at 27.9%* then his career average (21.3%). His stats across the board are down compared to his career averages - .336 BABIP (.363 career), .263 AVG (.308 career), .360 OBP (.399 career), and .515 SLG (.540 career). Is it something to worry about? I would say no. While it shows Trout is human, his number will even out. Let's just hope it doesn't start against the Astros.
The Angels have surged this past week with solid contributions from around the diamond and a pitching staff with the fourth best ERA in the majors at 2.92 this past seven days. That's just head of the Astros at six with a 3.00 ERA. Looking at the Angles' bats over the past week - Grant Green has lead the way for the halos. Green is batting .344 (11-32) with three runs scored, and four RBIs in last ten games. He is coming off a 3-for-4 performance against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Collin Cowgill will get two hits tonight if his previous games have been a guide, he has flip-flopped between two hits and zero hits for seven games now. As a result, he is batting .303 (10-33) with seven runs scored and four RBIs at the top of Los Angeles' lineup.
The halos are still without the services of Josh Hamilton, but they do have Albert Pujols. His current line reads .190 (8-42), 5 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB over his last ten games. That line may look worse if you remove the two-home run game he had on Sunday against the Rays. The Angels have survived by pitching and the play of their lesser known prospects like Efren Navarro, Luis Jimenez, and C.J. Cron.
Astros, winning baseball.....
The Astros are tied for fourth in hits (74) over the last seven days across the major leagues. They have collected at least 9 hits each game during that stretch. As previously noted, they have the sixth best ERA (3.00) from this past week. It's no surprise that they have a record of five wins and two losses in their last seven games. The Astros have been lead by Dexter Fowler and Jose Altuve during this offensive development.
Dexter Fowler has drawn a walk in eight straight games, and collected a hit in seven of his last ten games. He is batting .333 (11-33) with eight runs scored, four RBIs, and 14 walks over that time. Jose Altuve has a 10-game hitting streak coming to today's game, he has multiple hits in six of those ten games. He is batting .391 (18-46) with six runs scored and four RBIs in his last ten games.
Matt Dominguez, George Springer, and Jason Castro have brought the gun show out. Dominguez is coming off a game where he hit two home runs against the White Sox. He is batting .371 (14-41) with seven RBIs in his last ten games. Springer is batting .318 (7-22) in his last seven games with a home run and triple. Jason Castro has two home runs and eight RBIs in his last ten games.
The Astros bullpen, outside of new edition Kyle Farnsworth, has not given up an earned run over the team's last seven games. They have collected 22 strikeouts and six walks over 17 innings of work.
LHP Dallas Keuchel (4-2, 3.06 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) vs. RHP Garrett Richards (4-0, 2.42 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
Garrett Richards has done nothing but get better since joining the rotation out of the bullpen last season for the Angels. The Angels are 6-2 this season games that he starts, including Richards' first win of the season that game at the hands of the Astros. He pitched five innings, one run on five hits - walked five and struck out seven on April 4 in Houston. He is coming off a seven inning shutout of the Phillies on May 14, he struck out eight and walked zero.
Chris Carter has had his way with Richards in his career, going 5-for-10 with a double and a home run. He has kept the remainder of the Astros lineup check, including Jose Altuve (2-7), Jason Castro (0-7), and Matt Dominguez (2-7).
What can I say about Dallas Keuchel? He's been Cy-Young worthy for the Astros standards. He has worked into the sixth inning all of his starts this season expect one, which came against the Angels. On April 5, he gave up four runs on eight hits over five innings - striking out six and walking two. LIke Richards, he is coming off his best performance of the year - complete game shutout of the Rangers on May 13.
Mike Trout is 3-for-10 with four strikeouts and two walks against the Astros lefty. Albert Pujols is 1-for-3 with a double in his career. Other players with a high volume of at-bats Keuchel are Erick Aybar (5-12, 2 2B), Collin Cowgill (3-8, 2B), Chris Iannetta (3-9, 2B, HR), Raul Ibanez (1-6, HR), and Howie Kendrick (4-10, 2B, HR).
RHP Scott Feldman (2-1, 2.63 ERA, 1.09 WHIP) vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (3-1, 4.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
The Astros made Tyler Skaggs look like the rebirth of Cy Young in his first major league start in Houston on April 5. He pitched 8.1 innings - giving one unearned run on four hits, walking one, and striking out five. He has been workhorse since, pitching through the seven in five of his eight previous starts. He is coming of one of his poorest outing, giving up five runs over six inning against Tampa Bay on May 15.
Jesus Guzman is 1-for-8 with a home run and two walks off Skaggs. Jose Altuve is 1-for-2 with a walk. Chris Carter, Matt Dominguez are hitless in their careers against the lefty.
Scott Feldman hasn't been as perfect as he was before his forearm strain, but he has been good enough to give the Astros a chance to win games. He has given up six runs in 11 innings since coming back from the disabled list. He was the winner in the Astros' lone victory against Angels in their first encounter - pitching seven innings one-run baseball on April 6.
Erick Aybar (10-22, 2 2B, 2 3B), Raul Ibanez (5-17, 2B, HR), and Howie Kendrick (9-20, 2B, HR) have long successful track records against Feldman. Mike Trout is 1-for-6 in his career against Feldman. Brennan Boesch, Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill, and Albert Pujols are hitless against the Astros' number one.
RHP Collin McHugh (2-2, 3.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) vs. RHP Jered Weaver (4-3, 3.14 ERA, 1.10 WHIP)
Jered Weaver may not electric stuff anymore, but he still has the knowledge and skill to outpitch any batter in the majors. He has given up just four earned runs over his last 21.1 innings of work. He has 17 strikeouts and six walks during that stretch. He is coming off a tough-luck loss against Tampa Bay where he gave up two runs over seven innings.
Jason Castro, Matt Dominguez, Jesus Guzman, and Alex Presley each have a home run in their careers in six at-bats or less. Jose Altuve is 2-for-6 in his career against Weaver.
Collin McHugh continues to show he deserves to be in the majors since his call up to replace Scott Feldman while on the disabled list. He gave up four runs against against the White Sox in his last outing, striking out seven and walking three. If not for a fastball down the middle to Adam Dunn, McHugh may have been able out of the inning.
McHugh has a quality start in three of his five starts, and this will be the first time the active Angels' roster faces him.
I'm two for two in my recent prediction, this time around I suspect these game will all be close. But, Houston will only pull out only one win in three games against the hot halos.
*Stats Courtesy of Fangraphs