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Game #43 Preview: Los Angeles Angels vs Houston Astros

Here’s all you need to know for tonight’s clash of AL West heavyweights in Los Angeles

MLB: New York Yankees at Houston Astros Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels (24-16) vs. Houston Astros (26-16), May 14, 2018, 9:07 PM CDT

TV: AT&T SportsNet-SW, MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Radio: KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM

Online: MLB.TV

Angels SBNation Blog: Halos Heaven

Tonight the 26-16 Astros open up against the 24-16 Angels in their second series of the season. The Angels took the last one 2-1 in Houston, and while this one is in Anaheim, the Astros will have more favorable pitching match ups this time around.

The Astros will not be facing Shohei Ohtani this time, at least as a pitcher, but offensively Ohtani has been just as scary. In 74 plate appearances, Ohtani is batting .348/.392/.652 for 5 homers and the second highest wRC+ in the AL at 181. Otherwise, the Angels offense is led by early season MVP favorite Mike Trout (193 wRC+), defensive superstar Andrelton Simmons (149 wRC+), who is having an breakout season at the plate, and veterans Justin Upton (115 wRC+), Zack Cozart (104 wRC+), and Albert Pujols (92 wRC+).

Vegas Perspective

The Vegas Perspective may have just taken on a heightened importance, as today some serious sports betting legalization passed. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on state-sanctioned betting was unconstitutional in a 7-2 decision, opening the door for individual states to legalize sports betting at their discretion.

It’s unclear when Texas would follow suit, if ever, but regardless of what happens, the world of sports betting is about to become a much bigger part of everyday sports coverage, and we’ll continue try to stay ahead of the curve.

We usually don’t find edges on the Astros, because typically, the public loves to hammer up the lines for top teams, but McCuller’s presents an exception, as his advanced stats and projections rank him as a much better pitcher than his traditional numbers would indicate.

Line: Astros -119 (54.43%)

Our Model: Astros 56.3%

FiveThirtyEight: Astros 54%

Fangraphs: Astros 56.1%

Pitching Matchup

LHP Andrew Heaney (1-2, 4.78 ERA, 29 SO) vs. RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (5-1, 3.72 ERA, 52 SO)

The Astros will face the former 9th overall pick in 2009, Andrew Heaney. Heaney has a long history of injuries, including Tommy John surgery, and had only started 6 games over the past two years prior to this season.

When healthy, Heaney is a decent pitcher, and has used great control and an effective curveball to succeed despite lackluster velocity. His ERA on the season is misleading, as the advanced stats (3.34 xFIP, 3.63 SIERA) and strikeout/walk rates paint a much prettier picture.

McCullers gets the nod for the Astros. McCullers has taken a different approach attacking batters over his last two starts, as he’s given a much heightened importance to his change up pitch. Surprisingly, McCuller’s change up has been his most effective pitch on the season, yielding a 1 wRC+.

Even more surprising is that out of all McCuller’s pitches, only his change up has a wRC+ below 100 in 2018. Don’t expect McCuller’s to go away from his bread-and-butter curve anytime soon, as it has allowed a nasty 47 wRC+ over 2689 pitches in his career, but don’t be surprised to see Lance continue to push the change up. Developing an effective third-pitch would do a lot for McCullers’ development, and we could start to see less walks and longer outings going forward.

Today’s Lineups

Houston Astros Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros Los Angeles Angels
George Springer - CF Zack Cozart - 3B
Alex Bregman - 3B Mike Trout - CF
Jose Altuve - 2B Justin Upton - LF
Carlos Correa - SS Albert Pujols - DH
Yuli Gurriel - 1B Andrelton Simmons - SS
Evan Gattis - DH Luis Valbuena - 1B
Josh Reddick - RF Ian Kinsler - 2B
Max Stassi - C Kole Calhoun - RF
Derek Fisher - LF Martin Maldonado - C
Lance McCullers Jr. - RHP Andrew Heaney - LHP