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2019 Series Preview #29 Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (55-32, 1st in AL West) close out the first half of 2019 with three against the Angels (44-44, 4th in AL West)

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Angels

The Angels arrive in Houston in the midst of a heavy and tragic road trip that started with the sudden death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Because of the tragedy, they missed the first of the four games they had scheduled against the Rangers before promptly taking the next two. They dropped the third game of the series though, playing an evening game yesterday. That one ended so late that a certain blog writer, who may have imbibed a little too much at a 4th of July barbecue, fell asleep on the couch and didn’t finish this preview at his usual time. But that’s neither here nor there.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images

There’s no doubt about who the Angels’ number one hitter is as Mike Trout continues to produce yet another MVP-caliber season. He’s slashing .299/.454/.625 so far in 2019, and has 25 homers and 8 doubles. He also has more walks than strikeouts, with a 74 to 68 ratio.

Trout is joined by Shohei Ohtani as one of the better hitters for the Halos this year, though he’s only played in 50 games so far. That’s because he started 2019 on the injured list while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Since then he’s been cleared to resume hitting, but is not scheduled to be on the mound this season.

Speaking of good performances on short duty, Justin Upton has also been doing quite well at the plate since returning from the IL halfway through June. He rounds out the three best hitters on the Angels’ lineup, though his .269/.345/.462 slasher is based on a very small sample size.

The Angels’ offense is really better than the team’s record would suggest. Though they’re not running away with a wide number of offensive categories, they do sit in the top ten in most of them. They also have an excellent team OBP, checking in at #6 in the league with .336.

The one area where they really shine is strikeouts though, as in not doing it. They lead the league with the least amount of K’s at 591 with the closest team to them actually being the Astros, who are at 600. These two teams blow the rest of the league out of the water with the Pirates being the nearest at 675 strikeouts. My point is, expect to see a lot of good at bats during this series.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Since last we saw the Angels Hansel Robles has been officially installed as the team’s closer. His numbers are good, though he’s definitely not the best reliever stats-wise for the Angels. In 38.2 innings he has a .241 BAA and 1.11 WHIP to go with a 3.03 ERA. He’s successfully converted 11 of 13 save opportunities this season.

Ty Buttrey has also solidified his position in the Angels’ hierarchy, serving as the setup man for Robles. He has the best ERA out of all the relievers with 2.27. He also had some turns as closer earlier in the season, but was only able to bring home the win in 2 of those 5 opportunities.

Cam Bedrosian is probably Anaheim’s best reliever going off his stat line with a .175 BAA and a 1.06 WHIP, both of which are team bests. He’ll usually show up in the more high leverage situations earlier in the games. Justin Anderson is just a little behind him in numbers, but he has also done some decent work this season, and is used fairly often.

The Angels’ bullpen has some pretty good components and was one of the best in the league earlier in the season. The Astros will have to work a little harder to break out late in games like they have recently, but it’s not like they haven’t been able to do that against good pens already in 2019.

The Angels are also implementing the opener regularly, and will be doing so during tonight’s game. I’ll be talking about the relievers getting the ball in my coverage of the pitching match ups.

Astros

The Astros come home after a quick road trip and sweep consisting of 2 games against the Rockies. Those wins are the most recent of a 5-game streak that has seen a reversal of fortunes after a pretty awful stretch of baseball in three consecutive series. A big part of that turnaround is the return of Altuve and Springer to the lineup as well as a suddenly potent Yuli Gurriel. Playing in Colorado may have also added to the power stats this week, but it didn’t seem to phase Wade Miley much in his final start of 2019.

MLB: Houston Astros at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As I said early, Yuli Gurriel has been absolutely unconscious in recent play and is easily the Astros’ best player in the past week and farther. Even sitting for a game against the Mariners, he managed to pop 4 home runs in as many games. Three of those did come at Coors Field, but they count just the same.

Alex Bregman also continued his hot streak in Colorado with a homer of his own as well as a double while driving in 3. Unfortunately, no one else who played regularly was on fire over the entire week, but there was a bit of production in Denver, especially during the first game.

Altuve had a 4-hit game against the Rockies, which followed a 3-hit performance against the M’s, but did have an unproductive day to close out the series. Though he has had a few hitless games, we have been seeing some fairly steady production out of him since his return from the IL.

Though Kemp and Marisnick have done well in the few plate appearances they’ve seen, there hasn’t been too much other than that to crow about so far as hitting has gone. The team has managed to maintain a high OBP, though, with only Reddick, Stassi, and White having one below .300 in the last two series.

Yordan Alvarez did not get to play in Colorado, I suspect in order to give some stealth rest to his banged up knee.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As for the bullpen, things have been pretty good for the high-leverage guys and not so much for the rest. Josh James had a complete meltdown at Coors Field, surrendering 5 runs in just 1.1 innings of work. That performance seemed to be more based on lack of command than the rare air of Denver though.

Harris also surrendered a run, but with how good his season is going it’s hard to knock him for one blemish. Osuna saved both games of that series as well, and has seemed to be back on track lately after a shaky couple of weeks.

One thing to highlight is Collin McHugh, who has once more become a favored weapon out of the pen for Hinch. Since returning from the IL he’s played in five games with 4.1 IP. He has shut out opposing offenses in that time and only allowed 2 hits and one walk to go with 4 strikeouts. All of which he’s done after getting bumped from the rotation on what was a surprisingly short leash, so good on him for being a team player.

Pressly has been the only other reliever to give up a run this week, but followed up with a couple of scoreless appearances. Beyond that it’s been pretty steady sailing out of the pen during the winning streak.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Noé Ramirez, RHP (3-1, 3.16 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (10-3, 2.86 ERA)

The Angels will send opener Noé Ramirez for the first inning or two during game 1. This is the fourth straight time that he’s opened this spot in the rotation and has done alright in that role, though he did surrender two runs in the first inning during his last appearance. He will be followed by Félix Peña, who will be pitching a majority of the innings in this one. Peña has a 4.73 ERA in 70.1 innings this year and has seen an opener start 11 of his last 12 games. His appearances have been more bad than good this season, but he’s had a couple of brief flashes of brilliance as well.

Verlander’s most recent start against the Mariners was a bit of a grind that saw him leave before the 6th inning for just the second time this season. He was once again bitten by the long ball, giving up two in that game, and he also allowed a season high 4 walks. Sitting at 119.2 innings on the year, JV sports some of the best numbers in the league with .162 BAA and 0.79 WHIP. He’s definitely in contention for another CY award, even with all the homers.

Game 2: Andrew Heaney, LHP (1-2, 5.40 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole, RHP (8-5, 3.28 ERA)

Heaney made his 2019 MLB debut in late May due to being sidelined with an elbow injury to start the season. Since then he’s oscillated back and forth between good to decent to terrible. While he’s capable of keeping the Angels in a game, he’s also equally capable of giving up 5 runs, which he’s done in 3 of his 7 starts. That includes hist most recent match against Oakland, but he did at least go 6 innings and strikeout 8. This is a little surprising considering how good he was in 2018, though he did fall off a little at the end of the season.

Cole has just concluded an excellent June that was capped with AL Pitcher of the Month honors. He didn’t give up more than 2 earned runs in any games during that month, and hasn’t done so since May 22nd. He’s also continued his ridiculous K/9 rate, logging his 9th double-digit strikeout game of 2019 in his last start against Seattle. Cole’s ERA is mostly inflated by a couple of disastrous outings earlier in the season, but the rest of his numbers suggest that he’s just as dominating as he was in 2018.

Game 3: José Suarez, LHP (2-1, 5.40 ERA) vs Jose Urquidy, RHP (0-0, 4.91 ERA)

Suarez will make just his sixth career start in this game following a June 2nd MLB debut. In that time he’s done a decent job, but hasn’t exactly been blowing them away. His ERA is a little large due to a bit of a clunker against Toronto, but he hasn’t given up more than 3 runs in any of his other starts. The main issue with him is that he doesn’t go deep into games, having yet to complete 6 innings or throw more than 91 pitches in a start.

Urquidy makes his second start after a gutsy performance against the Rockies in Denver. He only went 3.2 innings in that game and gave up 2 runs, but he managed to keep his calm when hitters got on base and held a potent Colorado offense back. It would cost him as he had to leave early, but it was an encouraging performance. He’ll have another chance to show what he has in this game before the Astros take some time to rest and re-evaluate the rotation.

(Not so) Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, July 5th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels - FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Saturday, July 6th @ 6:15 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: FOX

Game 3: Sunday, July 7th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels - FS-W / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (37 votes)
  • 64%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (84 votes)
  • 4%
    Angels Win 2-1
    (6 votes)
  • 2%
    Angels Sweep 3-0
    (3 votes)
130 votes total Vote Now