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Series Preview #32: Houston Astros @ Los Angeles Angels

The Astros (64-35, 1st in AL West) open Act II of 2018 with a three game set against the Angels (49-48, 4th in AL West)

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Hey everyone, just a quick note. I’m going on vacation starting today and will be off the grid until I get back the following weekend. Someone here at TCB will look to get something up in my absence during the next couple of series, but either way look for my return for the Seattle series on July 30th!

Recency Bias


The Astros start the second half in a strong position for the second season in a row. They currently posses a 5 game lead in the West and hold fate in their hands with 10 games against the Mariners in the upcoming month. However, the Astros did go into the break with a bit of a mixed bag. They dropped the penultimate series to Oakland 3-1, but would jump out to win the first two of the Detroit series before ending on a weird Verlander loss. Bregman continued to set the world on fire the final week of the first half, slashing .385/.467/.808 before taking home All Star MVP honors at this year’s Midsummer Classic. Gurriel also played well, swatting 8 hits over his last 6 games, but with only one extra-base hit. Marwin and Springer both have looked encouraging at the plate recently, grinding out good at bats on a more consistent basis. Not to mention, George sure looked loose belting that bomb in the ASG. White and Kemp both had decent showings in limited appearances with White mashing home runs in two consecutive games, his first two of the season. Reddick and Gattis would have back to back jacks in the game 2 of the Detroit series, but were not very effective beyond that. Other than that the lineup was mostly quiet the final week of first half.

As for the bullpen, they followed the pattern with a much better showing in the second series than the first in the final week. After surrendering 12 runs to the A’s the pen would blank the Tigers as a group. Sipp continues his renaissance with 3.1 IP this last week and 8 K’s with only a single hit given up. Smith has also been mostly solid since his return from the DL and was the only Astros reliever to not surrender a run in the last two series. McHugh would continue his stellar relief season while Devo would have a nice bounce back with 2 innings of shutout ball against Detroit in the final game. Cionel Pérez also had a good inning against them in that same game, and has had two appearances where he may not have looked dominant but he has looked capable. Harris and Peacock have both also clocked in with good outings heading into the break, though Brad wasn’t exactly stellar against Oakland.

Houston will look to cement their gains and try to make some more daylight between them and Seattle as the season starts the downhill portion of the schedule


The Angels ended the first half with a bit of a shrug, barely gliding to the break above .500 on the season and with an 8-7 record in their last five series. The final week for them involved first a series win against Seattle and then a series loss to the Dodgers, where they did manage some late inning heroics. It doesn’t help that they’ve been a little banged up, especially their rotation but also some noticeable bats including Albert Pujols and Zack Cozart. For those who are healthy, Kole Calhoun has been having a monster week after starting the season ice cold. He slashed .364/.400/.955 with 4 home runs and 1 double. Justin Upton has also been making noise as he continues what has been a steady campaign. He went 6x20 with a couple of bombs in the last week, but did strike out 9 times. After that Andrelton Simmons has been the biggest threat in the last two series with a .911 OPS, aided by 4 doubles in 10 hits with 1 BB. Otherwise the Angels have been a little cold, though for Trout that means cold for him as he’s been hitting at a more average than elite rate lately.

As for the Angels’ bullpen, though the numbers have been trending down for most of the season, there are some decent arms in there. The closer role has floated since Keynon Middleton went on the DL, but seems to mostly be in the hands of Blake Parker. Parker has been having an excellent season with a 3.05 ERA, 10.15 K/9, and 2.84 BB/9. Justin Anderson made his big league debut out of spring training for LA and hasn’t looked back with 4 saves of his own and is emerging as one of the Angels’ better relievers. José Álvarez has also been a weapon, one of the best for the Angels so far in 2018. He doesn’t have any saves, but could be counted as easily top three for the Angels relief core, though he has been slightly outpacing his secondary numbers. Cam Bedrosian rounds out the most challenging portion of the pen with a 3.43 ERA, but like Álvarez he’s a little ahead of his peripherals. Noé Ramirez, though he hasn’t been quite as dominant, has also seen a lot of time on the mound and will often pitch in two games a series. The Angels have also acquired Hansel Robles from the Mets, who has been decent so far since joining them.

This series will be important for LA who is looking to collect themselves and get back in the race for the wild card before the sun starts setting on their season.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Dallas Keuchel, LHP (7-8, 3.75 ERA) vs. Tyler Skaggs, LHP (7-5, 2.57 ERA)

Dallas opens the second half after ending the first on a 6 game streak that was only marred by a clunker against Toronto. Even with that game he would go 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA over that period and appears to be finding his form. Dallas has not faced the Angels this season, but over the course of his career he has done well against them with a 10-2 record and 3.67 ERA. Keuchel’s secondary numbers have stabilized after his rough patch, so he might be in for a good run of games here.

Tyler Skaggs has been having himself a nice little breakout season while managing to stay healthy. Like DK, he’s on a good run of 6 games, but he doesn’t have the clunker thrown in and is sporting a 0.95 ERA to go with a 1.70 FIP in that time. Houston was not able to solve Skaggs the first time they saw him, with only 4 hits and 1 walk scattered across 7 shutout innings. His peripherals are a little higher than his actual numbers, but not by an alarming amount.

Skaggs will probably be the bigger challenge of the two lefties based off their seasons, but Dallas has had several brilliant games recently.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (9-5, 2.29 ERA) vs. Nick Tropeano, RHP (3-4, 4.83 ERA)

Verlander will look to bounce back after closing the first half of the season with what he described as one of the weirder starts of his career. He faced his only former team, the Tigers, and gave up 4 home runs and 6 runs, 5 earned, across 6 innings. He would also strike out 12 in that time and didn’t walk anyone. He’s faced the Angels twice this season and has generally had his way with them, including a complete game shutout in mid May.

The Angels counter with former Astros farmhand Nick Tropeano, who is being activated from the DL since he landed there with shoulder inflammation on June 15th. He’s had a couple of rehab starts where he seemed to be pitching well in high A ball. Houston faced him back in May where they were able to chase him in the sixth inning after tagging him for 4 ER. Trop is like Dallas in that his secondary numbers are about aligned with results on the season.

Even with all the long balls in his most recent start, Verlander has shown himself to be a higher caliber than Tropeano.

Game 3: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (10-4, 3.77 ERA) vs. Andrew Heaney, LHP (5-6, 3.78 ERA)

Lance starts the second half after setting a career high for wins in the first with 10 in 14 tries. Lance had been looking like he was getting his swagger back going into the his final game of Act I before getting shelled by Oakland with 6 ER in 4 innings. He did not help himself with 5 walks in that game either. He was better the one time he’s faced the Angels this season with 6 innings of 2-run ball at the Big A. Lance’s walk numbers have been creeping up lately, not helped by his recent performance, but his other numbers suggest he’s not a candidate for regression.

Heaney has been having a very similar season to Lance in the sense that he’ll go several games in a row looking dominant before throwing a clunker or having a short rough patch. He closed the first half on a much better note though, getting into the 7th against the Dodgers and only giving up 3 runs, 2 earned. His second-best game of the seasons came against Houston back in April when he went 8 innings with only 1 ER and 10 K’s. Again, similar to Lance, his numbers are somewhat aligned right now.

With so many similarities here I can’t see either pitcher with a leg up on this game.

Fun Fact

Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian is the son of Steve Bedrosian, who won the 1987 NL Cy Young Award while pitching for the Phillies as their closer.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, July 20th @ 9:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, July 21st @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: FOX

Game 3: Sunday, July 22nd @ 3:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (44 votes)
  • 63%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (97 votes)
  • 5%
    Angels Win 2-1
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Angels Sweep 3-0
    (2 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now