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2021 Series Preview: Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (18-16, 2nd in AL West) begin the week with three games against the suddenly Pujols-free Angels (15-18, 5th in AL West)

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Angels Notes

Some of the biggest news from the week has been the release of Albert Pujols after 9 and a half seasons with the Angels. This came about as the aging megastar Pujols has declined precipitously in recent years, becoming a shadow of his former self as a player and seeing his playing time diminish.

As the Angels looked to move on from him and start likely replacements, Pujols eventually made it clear he wanted to play more and was instead released. Though it didn’t exactly sit well with some of the other players, the fact is that this move can be considered an addition by subtraction thanks to just how poorly Pujols has played.

The team itself is coming into town off of a series win against their regional rival, the Dodgers, but had lost 5 games in a row before that. That spiral knocked them from near the top of the division all the way to last, but obligatory reminder that it’s still early in the season goes here.

With a collective slash line of .260/.319/.427, the Angels’ offense has been steady at the plate. Their .746 OPS is good for fourth in the league and, though they don’t lead MLB in any one category, they are in the top 5 for most traditional offensive categories.

Of course a lot of this comes from having two of the best players in the league on your team, which tends to make the lineup somewhat top heavy, but Ohtani and Trout are far from the only reasons the offense has been so good.

As good as the offense has been, the pitching has been the opposite for the Angels, which has always been something of an Achilles heel for them. The pitching staff’s 5.12 ERA is good for third-worst in the league and they’ve already blown 7 save opportunities as a group this season. Control also seems to be an issue for Angels pitching, who have walked 143 batters in 33 games, inflating their WHIP to .146. They do strike batters out though, and sit at 5th in the league with 347 K’s.

This series represents a chance for the Angels to get back on the right path now that Pujols is no longer sucking up AB’s due to legacy reasons. But they won’t have an easy time of it with two road series this against the Astros and Red Sox. Still, with both Trout and Ohtani in the lineup they should stand a fairly good chance at it.

Trout Ascendant: You’ll be surprised to hear that Mike Trout (.376/.488/.713) remains the best player in baseball. He leads the league in all three of his slash line stats and OPS (1.201) and is, of course, the biggest threat in the Angel’s lineup. So long as he stays healthy and continues producing near this level, Trout is well on his way to another AL MVP.

Hype Fulfilled: After a few seasons of injury and caution holding him back, it seems as though Shohei Ohtani (.276/.326/.626) is finally fulfilling the two-way player promise. He’s been both their second-best offensive player (leads the team with 10 homers, btw) and one of their best pitchers, even in limited time on the mound. He hasn’t pitched as often as he would like due to blisters, but he has certainly delivered when called upon.

Jared Walsh, superstar? After a 30-game breakout season in 2020, Jared Walsh (.325/.405/.544) has rocketed up the depth chart to become the Angels’ third-best offensive player. The 27-year-old right fielder has been overshadowed by Trout and Ohtani (I mean, how could he not be?), but he does lead the team in RBI (27), showing a propensity for clutch hits.

Closer Schmoser: Raisel Iglesias has not exactly been what the Angels were hoping for when they brought him over from the Reds during the offseason. Though he has brought home the save 5 out of 7 times, Iglesias has also surrendered 10 runs (8 earned) in just 12 IP. His .298 BAA and 1.42 WHIP don’t exactly inspire confidence either.

Wither Bullpen: In a turnaround from what has traditionally been a strength for the Angels, the bullpen has not been great for them this year. They’ve given up 78 earned runs in relief this season and are in the bottom five for both WHIP (1.51) and BAA (.261). They do have 10 wins though, but my feeling is that that has more to do with Anaheim’s excellent offense.

Starters

Game 1 was originally set to be started by Alex Cobb, but he was placed on the IL recently thanks to finger blisters. The Angels have yet to announce tonight’s starter, which might be a bullpen game for them. They may also start lefty Jose Suarez, who was called up to replace Cobb on the roster. Suarez has a 7.99 ERA in 21 appearances across his career.

Shohei Ohtani (RHP, 1-0, 2.41 ERA, 30 K’s) has been living up to his promise as a two-way player this season, turning in masterful performances on the mound and in the batter’s box. His biggest issue has been going deep into games as he has yet to pitch more than 5 innings. It’s not yet clear if he will also be batting in this game, something he’s done twice already this season

Andrew Heaney (LHP, 1-2, 4.11 ERA, 44K’s) comes into this game after pitching 6.2 shutout innings against the Rays. Before that he was not so good though, leaving his start against the Mariners with 4 earned runs in just 3.1 IP. This will be his second start against the Astros this season, the last one going 6.1 IP with just 1 run allowed.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, May 10th @ 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: Angels - Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN

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Game 2: Tuesday, May 11th @ 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: Angels - Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Wednesday, May 12th @ 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: Angels - Bally Sports West / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+ / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (34 votes)
  • 64%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (80 votes)
  • 5%
    Angels Win 2-1
    (7 votes)
  • 2%
    Angels Sweep 3-0
    (3 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now