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2021 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Los Angeles Angels

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The Astros (68-46, 1st in AL West) hit the road starting with three games against the Angels (58-58, 4th in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Notes

The story of the Angels’ 2021 season is a familiar one. They continue to linger as a 500 team as their star players waste the prime years of their careers. Even though the Angels’ offense is respectable, mostly thanks to said star players, the team struggles with pitching, which gives away as many games as the offense is able to win. Add in the fact that injuries have taken both Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon out of the lineup for most of the season, and this just isn’t a team with enough tools to compete for the division.

Of course they’re still getting a ton of attention thanks to Shohei Ohtani, who is a strong candidate for AL MVP this season. After only 10 starts in his rookie season and just two last year, it has been impressive to see what the two-way player has been able to do across a full season so far.

Still, there’s not much for the Angels to play for at this point in the season except to be spoilers, which is exactly what they could be this weekend. With the A’s riding a 7 game winning streak the Astros find their lead int he AL West quickly evaporating to just 1.5 games. As Oakland plays the Rangers this weekend you can’t count too much on them losing, so Houston will probably need at least a series win here to stay in the lead.

Last 10 Games: 6-4 Record, 2 Series Won, 1 Series Lost, +2 Run Differential (42 Scored, 40 Allowed)

W/L Splits: 32-28 at home, 26-30 on the road, 29-46 against teams over .500


Offense

The Angels’ offense has been hampered by injury all season, which is on full display when you look at Mike Trout, who played in just 36 games before hitting the IL with a calf injury. So far this year Justin Upton, Anthony Rendon, and Max Stassi, all significant contributors, have spent a good chunk of time on the shelf along with Trout.

All this has added up to an offense with a collective .252/.314/.423 slash line and a .737 OPS that’s good for 12th in the league. While players like Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh certainly help to bring that average up, there’s only so much a lineup without its major star can do.

Notable Players:

  • Let’s be clear that Shohei Ohtani (.268/.363/.655) was always going to start this list. Locked in an MVP race with the Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ohtani leads the Angels (and in some cases the league) in most traditional stats. He is tops in OPS (1.017), SLG (.655), OBP (.363), stolen bases (16), walks (55), RBI (84), homers (38), triples (5), doubles (25), and strikeouts (136). His 38 homers and .655 slugging are both top marks in MLB as well.
  • Jared Walsh (.269/.321/.513) has really stepped up this season to take over the first baseman role from the now-departed Albert Pujols. Walsh came on strong in 2020, starting in about half the games of the shortened season. His biggest weakness seems to be his plate discipline, as demonstrated by his 26:112 walk to strikeout ratio.
  • Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention old friend Max Stassi (.289/.368/.500) who is having one of the best seasons of his career, though he has already been to the IL twice this year. He recently was hit by a pitch in the forearm though and there seems to be some question on whether he’ll play in this weekend’s series or make another trip to the IL.

Pitching

As mentioned earlier, the Angels’ pitching is near the bottom of the league with a collective 4.71 ERA, and the staff’s 1.36 WHIP and .245 BAA don’t exactly inspire confidence. It’s been a pretty equal split between the starters and relievers as to who has given up the most runs, with them sporting 4.71 and 4.70 ERA’s, respectively.

That’s not to say that there isn’t some bright spots in the pitching staff. Everyone knows about Ohtani and there are certainly other noteworthy pitchers, but the Angels pitchers usually trend more towards average than good.

Notable Relivers:

  • Raisel Iglesias (RHP, 3.04 ERA, 53.1 IP, 80 K’s) has been rock solid as closer for most of the Angels’ season in spite of stumbling out of the gate in April. That stumble included two poorly played games against the Astros where he gave up 5 runs (4 earned) in just 1.2 IP. Still, he has been good in recent appearances, and has successfully converted 25 out of 30 save opportunities in 2021.
  • After a trade of Tony Watson at the deadline it looks like Steve Cishek (RHP, 3.64 ERA, 47 IP, 44 K’s) and Mike Mayers (RHP, 4.44 ERA, 50.2 IP, 66 K’s) are the top options left for high leverage roles. Cishek has been good since landing the Angels’ bullpen, but Mayers is in this role by necessity rather than preference.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Zack Greinke (RHP, 10-3, 3.69 ERA, 100 K’s) vs Patrick Sandoval (LHP, 3-5, 3.39 ERA 91 K’s)

Sandoval has become one of the Angels’ better starters since slotting into the rotation back in late May. Though his ledger isn’t completely free of blotches, he can usually be relied upon to go between 5 to 6 innings while giving up 3 or less runs. He did get slapped around by the Astros for 4 runs in a 2-inning relief appearance at the beginning of the season though, but hasn’t seen them since.

Game 2: Luis Garcia (RHP, 8-6, 3.29 ERA, 121 K’s) vs Jaime Barria (RHP, 2-0, 4.21 ERA, 13 K’s)

After spending a majority of the season in Salt Lake at the Angels’ AAA affiliate, Barria was recently recalled to fill the hole left in the rotation by injury and trades. He’s looked good in that time with just 5 runs surrendered across three starts and 19.2 innings.

Game 3: Lance McCullers Jr. (RHP, 9-3, 3.22 ERA, 128 K’s) vs Reid Detmers (LHP, 0-2, 10.61 ERA, 7 K’s)

Detmers is making his third career MLB start after his first two were complete disasters. Those two games saw him give up 11 runs across 9.1 IP while walking four and hitting two batters. He only managed 7 strikeouts in those frames.


Game 1: Friday, August 13th @ 8:38 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Angels - KLAA 830, KWKW 1330
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - Bally Sports West

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Game 2: Saturday, August 14th @ 8:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2, KAMA HD2 104.9 FM / Angels - KLAA 830
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Angels - Bally Sports West

Game 3: Sunday, August 15th @ 3:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010 / 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

  • 33%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (51 votes)
  • 50%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (76 votes)
  • 11%
    Angels Win 2-1
    (18 votes)
  • 4%
    Angels Sweep 3-0
    (7 votes)
152 votes total Vote Now