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Series Preview #50: Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

The Astros (95-57, 1st in AL West) host the last regular season series at MMP with three against the Angels (75-78, 4th in AL west)

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

Recency Bias


The Angels touch down in Houston after a 2-5 week that included getting absolutely savaged by the A’s and giving up 38 runs across a 3 game series. This came on the heels of a 1-3 series loss to the Mariners, who didn’t have too many issues tagging up Angel’s pitching. All of this happened after a pretty good run for LA, who had managed to win 4 straight series before playing Seattle.

Of course the Angels have been led by Trout this week as per usual, who has crushed 3 HR and 2 2B in the last two series. Justin Upton is also feeling a power surge with 4 long balls under his belt after playing in all 7 games. After that Shohei Ohtani has predictably had the best week of all other hitters with more than 10 plate appearances.

Since having Tommy John surgery recommended Ohtani has left the mound to take on a full time DH role and does not appear to have skipped a beat. He wasn’t exactly a force this week though, only going 5-for-22 but with 4 walks against Seattle and Oakland.

No other hitter who played in at least half the games this week would crack the .650 OPS mark, though Andrelton Simmons is definitely a candidate to break out of his cold spell. Kole Calhoun had seemed to be getting his feet under him after a horrendous start to the season, but things would take a decided turn for the worse this week even though he did knock a home run. Really the only other story of note is Kaleb Cowart, who has struggled offensively all season only to mash a grand slam against Oakland to help them take a victory in the first game of that series.

As for the bullpen, well it’s a bit of a mess. Partially in thanks to the big drubbing they took at the hands of Oakland, the Angels have deployed 16 separate relievers this week, including one position player. Not including the position player, 5 natural relievers gave up 13 runs across just 3.1 innings of work in yesterday’s game alone.

Beyond the fresh faces though you can still expect to see players in their usual spots in close games. José Álvarez is probably the Angels’ most reliable arm, though he did give up a couple to Seattle this week. Blake Parker, who has served as LA’s primary closer for much of the season, continues to fill higher leverage roles for the Angels and has had a clean ledger for September. Ty Buttrey, who made his debut on August 16th of this year, seems to be doing the closing these days, already having logged 4 to go with a sparkling 0.59 ERA in 15.1 innings.

Taylor Cole has been an interesting option out of the pen for the Angels, seeing success in limited playing time across about half the season. After that the talent becomes about standard mid-grade reliever stuff with no true standouts one way or another.

The Angels are just limping towards the finish line at this point and sure didn’t appear to be putting up much of a fight in the series against Oakland.


Houston comes into this series after three against the Mariners that would see the offense whipsaw from non existent to explosive and back again. This came just after the ‘Stros looked to finally be finding their groove at home, and also marked the first series loss in a month. Unfortunately, series losses are a little more troubling these days with the A’s still hanging out just behind Houston in the standings.

The past two series have really been up and down for the offense as they would bust out the lumber in one game only have it go missing the next. Reddick has actually seemed to be coming out of what’s felt like a season-long funk, slashing .308/.438.769 this week with 2 HR and 3 BB in 13 AB. Marwin has been right there with him, sporting a .924 OPS this past week with a bomb of his own and 5 RBI.

Gurriel and Springer would have similar weeks in terms of slash lines, though Yuli has had slightly more power in his bat while Springer has been getting on base exclusively with singles and the occasional walk. There have been reports of lingering thumb issues with Springer which might be effecting his stroke, but at least he appears to be seeing the ball well.

Altuve would have himself a middle-of-the-road week including 6 walks in the past 6 games, demonstrating that hey may be trying to see a few more pitches since he came out of his slump. White had his first rough week at the plate in a while, going 3-for-17, though all 3 of those hits were for doubles. Moldanado, Correa, McCann and Bregman would all reach base at at least a .300 clip even if they weren’t exactly crushing balls, but after that there was almost no offensive contribution.

As for the Houston bullpen, results were not encouraging in the most recent series. After a period of shutdown innings, runs have been coming at an alarming rate for setup man Rondón. Though hardly the only one to surrender runs, he would drop 6 over the course of 2.1 innings this week, including the game-winning grand slam in the first game of the Seattle series.

After that really the worst game the rest of the bullpen would see was the final match of the Seattle series. Peacock, Cionel Peréz, and Dan Deetz would all surrender runs in that debacle, including a solo home run from each. McHugh would have a scoreless inning in that series after a 2-run outing against Arizona. Osuna would not appear against Seattle after getting a save in the previous series.

Beyond that Sipp, Pressly, and Harris would all continue their recent scoreless outings, though Sipp has looked a little shaky with 2 walks and a hit in 1.1 IP this week.

Houston needs to bank a few more wins to really put the pressure on the A’s who have crept that much closer with a win yesterday, and now hover just 3.5 games back.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Andrew Heaney, LHP (9-9, 3.97 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole, RHP (14-5, 2.88 ERA)

Heany makes this start after a decent performance against Seattle, going 5 innings of 2-run ball, though that did follow 7 shutout innings against the White Sox his previous start. He’s mostly dominated Houston, winning three of his four starts and going at least 6 innings while keeping the Astros to 1 run or less in each of those. He would take it on the chin the last time Houston faced him in LA though, tagging him for 5 runs in 6 IP.

Houston would push Cole’s start back a couple of games in order to rest him, so here’s what I wrote for his originally scheduled start: Cole takes the mound after a bit of a grind in his last start against Detroit where he would only go 5 innings, but limit Detroit to just 2 runs. Cole has been going a little back and forth between dominance and grind lately, with his high strikeout numbers allowing him to overpower teams when he gets in trouble.

This will be Gerrit’s 4th meeting with the halos, and he’s managed to do mostly well even though he’s had to grind through a couple of them as well.

I’d like to think Cole would have the advantage here, but Heaney has played the Astros tough all season and definitely has the chops to take this one.

Game 2: Jaime Barria, RHP (10-9, 3.61 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (16-9, 2.67 ERA)

Barria comes into this game after an ok start against Seattle that was a follow up to a 3 inning 4-run clunker against the Rangers. That would mirror his second start of the season against Houston, but in his other two Barria has only surrendered a single run across 13 innings. Barria is a little out of the ordinary in that he’s one of the few pitchers that Houston has faced recently who’s FIP and xFIP, at 4.55 and 4.79, are still significantly different from their ERA.

Verlander appears to be on a roll after three straight games where he’s gone 7 innings and only given up 1, 2, and 1 ER. He would also have his 11th double-digit strikeout game of the season his last time out against Detroit. Verlander has shown dominance over the Angels all season, with his most recent outing being his worst at 6 IP with 3 ER. He remains neck-and-neck with Cole for AL strikeout lead, and may be back in second at the start of this game.

Verlander should have the edge here but it is hard to dismiss the talent that Barria has shown this season.

Game 3: Tyler Skaggs, LHP (8-8, 3.69 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (15-3, 3.15 ERA)

Skaggs started as one of the Angels’ better pitchers before a couple of blow ups in late July / early August would be followed by a DL stint. He would return to fire 3 no-hit innings against the A’s this last Tuesday and left early due to being on a pitch count. Skaggs has seen the Astros twice this year, shutting them out for 7 innings back in April before giving up 3 in 6 IP to take a loss in July.

Morton comes into this game after one of his better starts in over a month where he would fend off Arizona for just 2 runs in 6 innings while striking out 7. The best part was that he would walk no one, which showed a distinct sense of command for Charlie. Morton has only seen LA once this year and didn’t look sharp against them, giving up 4 runs in 4 innings with 5 walks.

If Morton can repeat his performance from last time out I like his chances in this one, but either way, Skaggs may be on a limited pitch count anyways.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, September 21st @ 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: Saturday, September 22nd @ 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 3: Sunday, September 23rd @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (29 votes)
  • 58%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (55 votes)
  • 10%
    Angels Win 2-1
    (10 votes)
  • 0%
    Angels Sweep 3-0
    (0 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now