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2021 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (7-10, 5th in AL West) continue to search for answers as they return home for a four game series against the Angels (9-7, 3rd in AL West)

Los Angeles Angels v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Angels Notes

The Narrative

So far this season the Angels are fulfilling their preseason role as dark horse candidate to take the division. Though still early, it seems as though their offense is finally living up to its full potential with a healthy Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani anchoring them. Ohtani is also continuing to make dreams come true as a two-way player, though his starts have been limited so far in 2021.

But the story hasn’t really changed when it comes to the Angels’ starting rotation, which has been the biggest problem for them in recent memory. While it’s not the worst in the league, Anaheim’s starters have given up a collective 44 earned runs in 79 innings of work, which is good for a 5.01 ERA. About the only one who has stats that are somewhat encouraging is Shohei Ohtani though, like I said early, he hasn’t pitched much this season with just 8.2 innings under his belt.

Still, the Angels are off to an excellent start if the goal is to break their postseason drought and finally give Mike Trout a chance to perform in the playoffs. All signs point to them having the tools to do so if they can figure out or overcome their starting pitcher situation. Of course, it’s still important to point out that it’s still April and extremely early in the season, so things could look a lot different come mid to late summer.

As for the current moment, the Halos will look to take advantage of an Astros team that has continued to reel since losing the series against the A’s during the last homestand. Missing some of our best hitters hasn’t helped, nor did playing in near-freezing temperatures in Denver to close out the most recent road trip. Still, it looks like the Angels might have a soft target in the form of the Astros if the team can’t quickly figure some things out at the plate and in the bullpen.

The Offense

No surprise here as the offense is being led by Best Player in the Game Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. A little more surprising is the fact that 2B Jared Walsh is right up there with them in terms of stats so far this season. Trout is currently leading the team in home runs (6), doubles (5), walks (13), and less impressively, in strikeouts (20). He’s also getting on base in slightly more than half his AB’s. So yeah, he’s pretty good y’all.

Though not nearly as good as Trout, who is sporting a rather monstrous .393/.507/.804 slash line so far in 2021, Walsh is right up there with Ohtani, who also has an excellent slasher at .310/.355/.690. He’s third on the team with 7 extra base hits so far in 2021 and is coming into Houston riding a 5 game hitting streak. Expect him, Ohtani, and Trout to be the biggest threats in the lineup for this series.

Not off to quite as hot of a start, Justin Upton deserves a mention here as well after getting on base at a .310 rate. He’s also popped 4 home runs so far this season with 3 coming in his last 4 games, so seems to be on a bit of a power surge.

As good as the offense has been, it has also been restrained somewhat by injuries. Both Anthony Rendon and Old Friend Max Stassi have been on the IL for the last week and a half. Stassi in particular was a big loss for the Angels, after swinging a hot bat to start the year with a .375/.474/.563 slash line across 7 games. Rendon had been trending more towards average with a .766 OPS, but you kind of expect the star 3B to get stronger as the season goes on.

The team also lost Dexter Fowler to a season ending ACL tear, which is unfortunate for the former Astro. Objectively speaking though, he wasn’t a big factor in the offense so far this year, so it wasn’t a huge subtraction for them.

Both Stassi and Rendon are eligible to return to the Angels’ roster during this series and signs point to a strong possibility that both do. However, Madden has been understandably caging about committing to a return for either, so we’ll see how the weekend plays out.

The Bullpen

As per usual, the Angels’ bullpen has remained solid so far this season. After a pretty extensive changing of the guard in the pen, the relievers have performed admirably and have been rewarded with seven W’s coming in the back end of games. That ties them for most in the league.

Raisel Iglesias remains the closer after the Angels brought him over from the Reds during the offseason. Iglesias stumbled a little during the first week of the season, but has been solid in recent play even with limited opportunities in that time.

Rookie reliever Chris Rodriguez has seen the most work out of the pen with 10.1 innings logged already in 2021. He had his way with the Astros’ lineup the one time they faced him this season so that’s hardly a surprise. Rodriguez definitely seems to be the long reliever in the pen so expect to see him early if a starter gets chased. He did just pitch yesterday though so we might not see him until later in the weekend.

After that it’s really hard to identify a specific reliever for a particular role since all of them have been doing well. Mike Mayers, Steve Cishek, and Felix Pena seem to be the late game relievers for Anaheim, but they’ve hardly been the only good arms in the bullpen this season.

Going purely by stats Junior Guerra has probably performed the best this season with a 1.00 WHIP and 1.07 BAA in 8 innings so far this season. Those 8 IP are also good for second most on the team, so it seems that there’s a lot of trust in him as well. I’m also going to mention southpaw Tony Watson, who the Angels signed in the offseason. He has delivered quite well since joining the team, but has only seen 5 innings so far this year.

The Starters

Alex Cobb (RHP, 1-0, 4.63 ERA, 17 K’s) will open the series on the mound for the Angels after having his last start pushed off thanks to a postponed game against the Twins. Cobb has given up 3 runs in both of his starts so far this season, but has made it to the 6th inning in both, so his performance has been workable. He’s also been solidly striking guys out with 17 K’s across just 11.2 innings.

Andrew Heaney (LHP, 1-1, 5.65 ERA, 19 K’s) gets the ball in Game 2 after a solid 5.1 inning performance against the Twins where he gave up just 2 runs. It was his second commendable performance in a row after a rather disastrous opening to the season. He gave up 7 runs in 3 innings against the White Sox in that one. Heaney has been a constant in the Angels rotation since 2015 with some perfectly serviceable years, but has never really replicated the success of his rookie season.

Griffin Canning (RHP, 1-1, 5.68 ERA, 14 K’s) is scheduled to start Game 3 and is making his first start since April 14th. He was used in relief during Ohtani’s last outing and went 2.1 innings, so he won’t be completely cold coming into this one. Canning has looked somewhat pedestrian this season, giving up 8 earned runs across 12.2 IP including 2 during his relief appearance, but is still averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

Dylan Bundy (RHP, 0-2, 4.50 ERA, 28 K’s) will toe the rubber in the finale on Sunday and has been one of the Angels’ better starters this season. Up until his last game that is, where he got rocked by the Rangers for 5 runs in 5 innings. Before that hiccup Bundy had three consecutive starts where he did rather well, including a game against the Royals where he went 7 innings and only surrendered 2 runs.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, April 22nd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: YouTube

Game 2: Friday, April 23rd @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+

Game 3: Saturday, April 24th @ 3:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 4: Sunday, April 25th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels - KLAA 830 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (6 votes)
  • 19%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (13 votes)
  • 32%
    Series Split 2-2
    (22 votes)
  • 23%
    Angels Win 3-1
    (16 votes)
  • 16%
    Angels Sweep 4-0
    (11 votes)
68 votes total Vote Now