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2019 Series Preview #52: Houston Astros @ Los Angeles Angels

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The Astros (104-54, AL West Champs) lower the curtain on the 2019 season with a four game series against the Angels (71-87, AL West not-Champs)

MLB: JUL 18 Astros at Angels Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Snapshot

Astros

The Astros strut into Anaheim on the tail end of yet another excellent season for the club. As we head into the final series of 2019, the offense has really set itself up as one of the most prolific in history while the rotation is anchored by two of the strongest starters to play the game in recent memory. They’re getting ready to storm October thanks to a number of different guys contributing, and that has really been evident in the month of September. They are 16-5 for the month and have scored 10 or more runs in as many games as they’ve lost. The Astros are now at a franchise-record 104 wins on the season and their magic number is 2 to secure home field advantage through October.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

The Astros offense is being powered by Alex Bregman at the moment, who is making a case for AL MVP as the season winds down. Bregman is now slashing .298/.421/.595 for the year and has popped 40 homers. He’ll have a shot at getting his average over .300 before the end of the season, but with AJ looking to rest some starters in this series I’m not sure how likely it will be.

As good as Bregman’s stats are, Yordan Alvarez is slightly better and a shoe-in for RotY at this point. He’s done it in less than 90 games though, which makes it both impressive and a little sad that he could have been even better.

Springer and Tucker have both had good weeks as well, but things start to trail off a little for the offense in recent games. Altuve has scuffled this past week while Michael Brantley continues to have a tough month of September. They’ll have a chance to turn it around a little in this series though as none of the announced starters look too intimidating.

The Astros’ bullpen had an excellent couple of games in Seattle, but mostly because they didn’t have to work too hard behind a couple of excellent starters. The week in general has been like that, with really the only warts coming from a couple of bad innings from Rondon and Framber.

The bullpen will probably play a bigger factor in the final four games as the Astros will look to rest starters for the ALDS and maybe give a few more auditions to pieces looking to factor into 2020.

Angels

The Angels come into this series in the same position they were in when the Astros met them last week. They’re looking to give the younger players a look at legitimate MLB playtime as they think more about the future then the present. They’ve been mostly hurt by a string of injuries that has sidelined their best players in the form of Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and, to a lesser extent, Justin Upton. The Angels do hope to compete in 2020 though, so will most likely be looking to add to their roster over the offseason, but for the moment they’re no more than footnote in the 2019 season.

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Unfortunately for the Angels, their best starters on the year are out of the lineup, leaving it more to the B-team to fill in as the season winds down. Kaleb Cowart has done just that this past week with a .333/.33/.583 slash line, but it’s only been in 12 AB’s, which is all he’s done this season.

Taylor Ward and David Fletcher have had similar weeks and may be a little dangerous for this series if they continue their hot hitting, but have had pretty disappointing 2019’s otherwise.

The best player for the Angels not currently on the IL has to be Kole Calhoun, who has managed to recover from a poor start to the season and has turned into something of a power hitter. He has 33 homers on the year, good for second on the team after Mike Trout. They also still have the declining Albert Pujols, who can take you deep on occasion but really hasn’t lived up to his contract in recent years.

The bullpen situation for the Angels hasn’t changed in the last couple of games, so instead of re-wording it I’ll just include below what I wrote a week ago. The only real change is that starter turned reliever Trevor Cahill became the first Angels pitcher to hit 100 innings on the season. This is kind of a big deal as the team came perilously close to becoming the first MLB team in history without that particular stat.

The back end of the Angels’ bullpen has shuffled recently with Cam Bedrosian, one of the more dependable arms, going on the IL at the beginning of September with a forearm strain. At least the timing wasn’t so bad as the team had just activated former closer Keynan Middleton from a 15-month TJS recovery.

He’ll join current closer Hansel Robles and Ty Buttrey in the later innings. Robles has been rock solid all season while Buttrey has been good, but prone to the occasional meltdown.

Pitching Match Ups

Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Game 1: Wade Miley, LHP (14-6, 3.91 ERA) vs Jaime Barria, RHP (4-10, 6.43 ERA)

Miley comes into this start fighting for a shot as a starter in the postseason, which is a far cry from the position he held at the beginning of the month. He’s been lit up to the tune of a 22.09 ERA in his last 4 starts and only made it past the first inning in one of those. He did look good one start, going 6 innings total after a shaky first, but otherwise has been a complete disaster on the mound in September. Miley will get one last chance to right the ship and show that he can be effective in the first inning before some hard decisions are made about October.

Jaime Barria makes this start after getting absolutely rocked at the hands of the Astros in his previous game. He was slapped around for 6 runs on 4 homers in just 2.2 innings of work in that one. Barria has been a disappointment for the Angels in 2019 after there was some talk that he could help anchor a rotation in desperate need of help. He has filled both a traditional starter and a “bulk innings guy” role for the Angels this season, but hasn’t really shined in either. He has a 7.71 ERA in four starts this month.

Game 2: Jose Urquidy, RHP (1-1, 4.63 ERA) vs Patrick Sandoval, LHP (0-3, 5.25 ERA)

Jose Urquidy has performed admirably out of the pen since being recalled from Round Rock, stepping in a couple of times to cover for an ineffectual Wade Miley, and has now earned a start of his own. He’ll have to do it against a team that has slapped him around a little, as his last start against the Angels was a rather dreadful 2.1 inning, 5-run showing. It’s possible that Urquidy could be auditioning for a role in October, especially if he can dazzle in this final game. Either way, it seems like he might be getting penciled in for the 2020 rotation no matter how the rest of 2019 shakes out.

Sandoval will make his second career start against the Astros in this one as the Angels continue to get a look at him for a possible role next season. He went just 3 innings in his first one, giving up 3 runs across those frames. Sandoval hasn’t exactly impressed so far this season as consistency has been a bit of a bugaboo for him. He hasn’t gone super deep into games yet as the Angels are managing his work load, so we may see more of LA’s bullpen in this one.

Game 3: Justin Verlander, RHP (20-6, 2.53 ERA) vs Jose Suarez, LHP (2-6, 7.34 ERA)

Verlander comes into this game as one of the best pitchers in the league and is currently fighting with his rotation-mate Gerrit Cole for the Cy Young award. JV will look to pad his resume in this one as well, but with October looming and the Astros already clinched, I don’t think that AJ will allow Verlander to go too deep into this game. If he does there’s a chance at getting to 300 strikeouts on the year for Verlander, but he would need 12 more to hit that mark.

The Astros get yet another start against an Angels’ rookie in this one, having faced him twice already this season. the most recent one was the game on the 22nd where he came in for 2 innings of 1-run relief. Suarez has been mostly awful for the Angels this season as evidenced by his sky-high ERA. I don’t expect him to go deep into this one, especially if he gets tagged early, as he has only gotten into the fifth inning in 4 of his 14 starts this year.

Game 4: Gerrit Cole, RHP (19-5, 2.52 ERA) vs Dillon Peters, LHP (4-3, 4.72 ERA)

Cole will start the final game of the 2019 season for the Astros after setting a new season mark in strikeouts for the club. He will almost definitely add to that total in this game, which currently sits at 316. Like JV, I expect this to be more of a brief tune up outing for Cole than a serious start. With the ALDS just 4 days later, Houston will probably be more interested in having a rested Gerrit Cole than padding the win total for 2019. That could all change if HFA is on the line though.

The Angels counter with Dillon Peters for the final game of the season, who had a good outing against the A’s in his last start. He went 5 innings in that one and only gave up 2 runs, eventually earning the win. He has struggled at times though and is prone to the occasional clunker, as his rather pedestrian ERA would suggest. One of those clunkers was against Houston at the end of August, where he was lit up for 5 runs across 4.2 innings, including a couple of home runs.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, September 26th @ 9:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W

Game 2: Friday, September 27th @ 9:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W

Game 3: Saturday, September 28th @ 8:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W

Game 4: Sunday, September 29th @ 2:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Angels - KLAA 830, KTMZ 1220
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - FS-W

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (42 votes)
  • 55%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (123 votes)
  • 23%
    Series Split 2-2
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    Angels Win 3-1
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Angels Sweep 4-0
    (2 votes)
222 votes total Vote Now