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Series Preview #44: Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

The Astros (82-51, 1st in AL West) welcome the reeling Angels (64-69, 4th in AL West) for the last of five straight division series

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Recency Bias


The Angels will face the Astros for the second time in three series after an ugly sweep at home. They would go quietly in all three of those games, never holding the lead or coming closer than 2 runs behind Houston. LA would go off with 10 runs against the Rockies right after that series but would only manage two runs and a two-game series split in the finale. Overall the Angels’ lineup has been a lesson in futility this past week with the only players performing at an above-average rate being Trout and Ohtani.

Fortunately for the Angels, those two players have performed at an elite level. Trout has seen the most action, slashing .353/.476/.647 with 2 HR and 4 BB in 17 AB. Ohtani would be limited to pinch-hitting duties in some of his games, but still managed to go 4-for-11 with a double and 2 HR. After that the offense has fallen off a cliff with Kole Calhoun and Andrelton Simmons turning in the best performances with lackluster .586 and .583 respective OPS stats. Simmons has been better on the season as a whole, so he may be more primed to break out of that slump this series. Beyond that, while Francisco Arcia has been enjoying success in a small sample size, the Angels haven’t had a whole lot to crow about offensively, especially with a few replacement players getting looks due to injuries and trades.

Injury Notes: It was announced by Angels after the Colorado series that Albert Pujols has undergone season-ending knee surgery after playing through pain for most of the season. Justin Upton is expected to take his spot on the 25-man when he is activated from the 10-day DL today. Upton was sidelined after cutting a finger on his left hand with a wine glass and needing four stitches.

While it’s not saying much, the Angels’ pen has looked better than the offense this past week. The depth is being tested this last time through the rotation, with two starters getting chased before the 5th and a bullpen day start being taken by Noé Ramirez, who gave up 2 ER in that game and also notched a save this week. Taylor Cole would help to preserve some of that arms in that game, going for 3 scoreless innings in his only appearance this week. Blake Parker and Hansel Robles would each avoid runs on their ledgers as well, though they only saw 2.1 and 1.0 IP, respectively. Recent call up Ty Buttrey would give up his first run in 6.1 MLB innings during his most recent game against Colorado. Closer Blake Parker as well as José Álavarez and Cam Bedrosian have all had solid seasons out of the Angels’ bullpen, though all three would surrender a run in multiple innings of relief this week.

Obviously the Angels aren’t eliminated from anything, but after trades, injuries, and the recent slide in the standings, it’s hard to see this team fighting for anything more than pride at this point.


As for Houston, they would use that series sweep against the Angels for momentum before taking two of three in a hard fought series against Oakland. In the opposite of the games in Anaheim, the A’s and Astros would seesaw leads all series in what became late inning dogfights for an edge in the division. With the top of the lineup finally returning to the original composition, it was nice to see the team consistently score runs by using both disciplined at bats and clutch hitting.

Probably the most clutch hit this week was Tyler White’s walk-off home run from last night’s game, which crowned a series win against the A’s to gain a game on the division. While his numbers were excellent this week they didn’t hold a candle to Bregman, who was absolutely unconscious against Oakland, going 8-for-19 with 2 BB, 3 2B, and 1 HR. Marwin would also continue his hot August this week, slashing .364/.417/.773 and driving in 8 runners. Springer and Altuve have both looked like they’re rounding into form since returning from the DL, especially with George getting on base at a .533 clip. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Correa who has managed to drive in a few runs but is nowhere near locked in at the plate. Reddick and Gurriel have been a little cold this week as well, though not as bad as Gattis, Maldanado, and Kemp, who all did poorly in limited appearances.

Injury Note: Morton will head to the DL for the first time this season with right shoulder discomfort. The Astros have indicated that it’s not really more than normal fatigue and irritation and don’t expect Charlie to miss more than one start, but they have had overly optimistic estimations before. Here’s Morton on going on the DL, courtesy of Brian McTaggart:

Devenski was activated from the DL in a corresponding move. Devo was not exactly sharp in his games in the minors, but will look to regain his early season dominance with the big league club.

Once again Osuna would get the most work out of the pen this week with 4 single inning appearances, gaining a win, a save, and a blown save in the process. McHugh would come back from a couple of rough outings with a clean inning against Oakland. Peacock was the only other reliever who gave up a run this week, but looked extremely shaky doing it by forcing in the run on a bases-loaded HBP before being lifted and subsequently bailed out by Sipp and Smith. Speaking of, Sipp has taken over the lefty specialist role, only going a full inning once this month. While Smith has been showing dominance on the mound recently, deadline acquisition Ryan Pressly seems to be getting better as the weeks have gone on, pitching 34 perfect innings while Harris pitched a perfect 2.1 innings of his own this week. Rondón enjoyed a clean couple of innings this week as well, sliding into his new setup man role quite easily.

The Astros will hope to use an easy target to put some more daylight between themselves and the A’s, who don’t look to be going away anytime soon.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Andrew Heaney, LHP (7-8, 4.25 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (13-8, 2.72 ERA)

After getting off to a strong start, Heaney has had an absolutely putrid month of August. including his most recent start against Houston. While Heaney has traditionally done well against the Astros, he would get slapped for 5 runs in 6 innings just this last week. This was a far cry from his previous two starts against Houston, where he would only give up a single run and earn the W in each. Heaney’s ERA is a little high in comparison to his 3.90 FIP, so there might be some recent bad luck involved, but not a ridiculous amount.

Verlander makes this start after grinding out his 201st win against these same Angels last week. While JV has been a little up and down recently, he has also traditionally enjoyed success against the Angels, only giving up 5 runs in 28 innings, notching the win in all 4 starts. While Verlander has looked more human recently, he’s only outpacing his peripheral numbers by a small amount, suggesting he could easily shrug off recent hiccups.

Verlander continues to be the workhorse in the rotation for the Astros and should have an edge over Heaney, who has struggled lately as well.

Game 2: Jaime Barria,* RHP (8-8, 3.67 ERA) vs. Framber Valdez, LHP (2.0, 0.96 ERA)

*The Angels have not officially announced their starters for this game or beyond in the upcoming series but Barria, Peña, and Despaigne are next up the rotation, so I will be previewing them.

Barria comes into this game after his worst start in almost a month where he would grind through 3 innings against Houston before being chased after giving up 4 runs. He would previously handle the Astros quite well in his only other start against them where he would pitch 7 innings of 1-run ball. Barria’s secondary numbers seem to suggest that we could still see some stumbles out of him.

Houston counters with Framber Valdez, who has seemed up to the task in his two outings so far: 4.1 innings of bullpen saving relief and a reward start in the rotation against the Angels. In 9.1 MLB innings, much too small of a sample still of course, he’s looked good, wiggling out of trouble, but has struggled a little with command. While he would battle at times with his 5 innings of 1-run ball against the Angels, there have encouraging signs out of Framber as well.

Hard to say as Barria did not look good in his last start, but Valdez is still somewhat of an unknown commodity art this point.

Game 3: Felix Peña,* RHP (1-4, 4.52 ERA) vs. TBD

Peña will take the mound for LA after a pedestrian month of August, where he’s given up 12 ER in 29 innings. He would throw a quality start of 6 innings with just 3 runs his last start against Houston, and represented Oakland’s best starter in that series. Peña’s numbers are not that far from what he’s currently been showing on the field, so he my be an easy challenge for the Astros.

With Morton on the DL and rosters set to expand on the 1st, it could be a spot start from the minors or someone in the pen who then hands it over to a stretched out minor leaguer. We probably won’t know for sure until Friday after the game or Saturday morning.

Can’t say how this one would go without knowing who is actually starting.

Game 4: Odrisamer Despaigne,* RHP (2-2, 6.12 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (12-5, 2.85 ERA)

Despaigne was a recent acquisition from the Marlins and has been pretty terrible for the Angels since joining the team. He’s only logged 4 innings in his first three starts, though the number of runs surrendered has trended downward from 5 to 2 in that time. A .356 BABIP and 4.08 FIP seem to suggest that he’s not getting the brakes, but those numbers aren’t exactly dominant themselves.

Cole has continued his good run even though he would give up 4 runs against the A’s in Houston this last series, with two of those RBI coming off of a cheapie homer that would sneak into the Crawford boxes. This will be Cole’s third start against LA, who he has done well against this season, though the last time he faced them was in mid-May. Cole’s numbers are lining up quite well, so we can expect strong upcoming performances.

Cole definitely looks to be in a stronger position should Despaigne get the call here.

Fun Fact

The Astros should have a chance to end the season strong with 6 of their final 9 series against sub-.500 teams with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Mariners representing their toughest remaining challenges.

For You Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, August 30th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels - FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Friday, August 31st @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels - FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Saturday, September 1st @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels - FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 4: Sunday, September @ 7:05 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: ESPN


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (37 votes)
  • 62%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (88 votes)
  • 7%
    Series Split 2-2
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Angels Win 3-1
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Angels Sweep 4-0
    (4 votes)
140 votes total Vote Now