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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Los Angeles Angels

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The Astros (4-0, 1st in AL West) take a jaunt down to Anaheim for a quick two-step with the Angels (3-1, 2nd in AL West)

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Angels Quick Notes

The Narrative

The Angels remain the dark horse candidate to win the AL West and spent most of the offseason trying to beef up their starting pitching, which was their weak point last year. They did that by bringing on Jose Quintana and trading for Alex Cobb, who will join 2020 acquisition Dylan Bundy in the rotation. Phenom two-way player Shohei Ohtani will also return to the rotation in 2021, but will need to prove that he can stay healthy all season and will only pitch once every 7 days.

The Angels didn’t stop there though, and made a number of moves during the offseason to improve. These included trades for reliever Aaron Slegers, outfielder Dexter Fowler, infielder Robel Garcia, reliever Rasiel Iglesias, and shortstop Jose Iglesias. They also signed catcher Kurt Suzuki and relievers Alex Claudio, Tony Watson, and Steve Cishek.

All of these moves give the impression of a team that is trying to make incremental improvements in the hopes that it will push them over the top. Whether or not it will be enough to make that true remains to be seen.

They just spent the weekend battling it out with the White Sox and made a good showing of it, now siting right behind the Astros in the division at a 3-1 record. The Angels do look like a good team and, after opening weekend, are currently the primary competition for the Astros. They have certainly improved over last season’s product, but it remains to be seen if they have enough pitching to get them to promised land in October.

This series will provide a good chance for either team to get a leg up in the division, even more so for the Astros, who could really establish themselves as the team to beat in the West again. Even though it is still extremely early in the season and things could look quite different in September, it’s always good to put daylight between yourself and divisional opponents.

The Offense

The Angels made a good offensive showing during their opening series, scoring 24 runs in their first four games. The games were mostly close though and the team didn’t exactly run away with them, with their biggest victory coming thanks to a 3-run walkoff homer in the series finale.

The offense was led by the usual suspect in the form of Mike Trout, who’s already slashing .333/.556/.972 on the young season. Justin Upton and David Fletcher performed admirably as well over the weekend, accounting for a majority of the Angels offense. Out of the rest of the offense Anthony Rendon was probably the most productive batter with a .333 OBP across 15 AB.

Of course, there’s also Shohei Ohtani, who has already mashed a couple of taters for the Angels, including one on the same day he was pitching. He hasn’t been super great other than the homers though, having only delivered 3 hits in 16 AB’s with 6 strikeouts and no walks. The Angels have already said that he’ll be out of today’s game so he can rest after pitching yesterday, but they expect him back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Of course, this is all based on a single series, so your standard “small sample size” warning goes here.

The Bullpen

The Bullpen for the Angels has been somewhat roiled in the past week. Just before the season started, the Angels decided to option Ty Buttrey, who promptly retired from baseball three days later. To replace him they picked up Tony Watson and Steve Cishek, who looked like he was going to be an Astro this season before opting out of his contract about a week before the season started.

The Angels also brought Raisel Iglesias from the Reds during the offseason to be their new closer, who has already converted a save and blown another one in three appearances. He will also probably be unavailable for at least tonight’s game after pitching 3 innings in the last four games.

Cishek, Iglesias, and Mike Mayers seem to be the most likely option for high leverage for the Angels at this point, but the roles aren’t exactly locked down at this point.

The Angels bullpen had a decent series against the White Sox, only surrendering 5 earned runs in 16.1 innings. They also struck out 19 in those frames. They’re not exactly leading the league in categories right now though, but with all the upgrades added to an already strong unit, expect competence from this bullpen as the season progresses.

The Starters

The Angels are employing a six man rotation to begin the season, which is mostly being done as a way to let Ohtani pitch on Sundays this season. Because of this, the two pitchers that the Astros will see in the e Angels’ fifth and sixth games will not have pitched this season.

Lefty Jose Quintana will get the ball as he makes his Angels debut. After signing with the team in the offseason, Quintana looked ready in spring with a 3.32 ERA across 19 innings of work. That was spread out across 6 starts though, with Quintana being somewhat limited after coming off of an injury season in 2020. All signs point to him being ready to go, but I still wouldn’t be surprised to see him leave early.

Griffin Canning will toe the slab for the second game of this series, and is also making his season debut. Canning showed talent in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 3.99 ERA across 11 starts. He also won a gold glove that year, so expect him to field his position. This will be his first full 162-game season with the Angels, though he did have a substantial amount of time in the Angels’ rotation during 2019.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, April 5th @ 8:38 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KLAT 1010, KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2 / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+ / Angels - Bally Sports SoCal

Game 2: Tuesday, April 6th @ 3:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KLAT 1010, KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2 / Angels KLAA 830
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - Bally Sports West / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (160 votes)
  • 47%
    Series Split 1-1
    (171 votes)
  • 8%
    Angels Sweep 2-0
    (30 votes)
361 votes total Vote Now