2019 Season Preview #50: Los Angeles Angels @ Houston Astros

Angels

The Angels’ season has done a proverbial belly flop in recent weeks as they saw first Shohei Ohtani and then Mike Trout go down with season-ending surgery. Though it didn’t really shift their playoff odds, already at zero, it was a punch to the gut for a team nearing the end of yet another disappointing season. They have not played well in the month of September, sitting at a 4-12 record so far and have only won one series in that time. It won’t get any easier for them as they play only playoff contenders the rest of the way with a series against the A’s after this one and closing out 2019 at home against the Astros.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v New York Yankees

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Even while sporting one of the best players ever to play baseball for a majority of the season, as well as the ever-dangerous Shoehi Ohtani, the Angels’ offense has been decidedly mediocre as a whole this year. IT doesn’t help that LA is also really dinged up lately, with 9 players out for the rest of the season, including old friend Max Stassi.

The team is more or less in the middle to bottom tier in most traditional offensive categories, except for OBP where they rise to around 10th. They are also third in the league for least amount of strikeouts, so this is a team that can work at-bats.

As I said though, they’ll have to get along without their big 1-2 punch in the lineup and rely more on an aging Pujols. Pujols has been gathering milestones as his career progresses, but he’s definitely declining as evidenced by the fact that his career avg dropped below .300 recently, the first time he’s been at that mark since about two weeks after his MLB debut.

Tommy LaStella and Brian Goodwin are probably the Angels’ most dangerous hitters still in the lineup, and have turned in solid seasons for LA. Kole Calhoun has also been solid as of late, continuing a second half that has served to correct for an absolutely awful start to the season.

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.

Astros

The Astros welcome the Angels to Houston while riding a 5-game winning streak that includes sweeps over both the Royals and Rangers. The team certainly seems to be firing on all cylinders with dominant pitching performances and hitting that, when not explosive, is doing enough to get wins. The Astros are now at 100 wins for the third consecutive season and have a shot at breaking the franchise record for wins again. Their magic number now sits at 2, which means that a win tonight coupled with an A’s loss could see Houston celebrating its third straight division crown. Either way, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be champagne in the clubhouse before the Astros leave Houston for the final time in the 2019 regular season.


Texas Rangers v Houston Astros

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Astros batters have been slugging lately, with most of the offense in the last two games being generated via the long ball. It has been a power surge this last week with Altuve and Gurriel both sporting three homers in the last two series, and Alvarez and Bregman with two each.

Beyond that, Reddick and Chirinos have both looked strong in limited play, a welcome sight to see as the team heads toward October. The bottom of the order has definitely been seeing steady contribution, which the Astros need to win games.

The bottom of the order was scheduled a little boost with Correa returning against the Rangers and batting in the 7th on Tuesday. Unfortunately, he went 0-for-4 in that one and din’t start in the next game as Hinch plans on easing him back into regular playtime.

Houston’s offense has easily been one of the best in the league, if not all time, as they lead of all MLB in OPS (.847), OBP (.353), AVG (.276), walks (607), and hits (1,460), and are tied with the Twins for first in SLG (.494).

The team is definitely getting healthy at the right time, especially the bullpen as Ryan Pressly is expected to rejoin the team this weekend. It also looks like Peaock is not too far away from his return as well. They’ll add to what has become a more solid corps of relief arms recently, especially with Rondon and Smith both playing quite well in September.

The bullpen has really had an excellent week in general. Only two runs were given up in the past five games by relievers and Osuna managed to lock down all three save opportunities he was given. All that’s left now is to break a few more records on the road to October.


Houston Astros v Kansas City Royals

Photo by John Sleezer/Getty Images

Game 1: Jaime Barria, RHP (4-9, 5.95 ERA) vs Zack Greinke, RHP (16-5, 2.95 ERA)

Barria’s numbers are pretty frightening with a 5.95 ERA in 75.2 innings pitched this year. He doesn’t usually go very deep into games, averaging around 4.1 innings. He has pitched well enough in his last two games, only giving up a couple of runs in each, but did get rocked a little by Oakland in the game just before that. That pattern has been pretty commonplace for Barria all season. Barria did have a good start the one time he faced the Astros in 2019, delivering 5.1 innings of 2-run ball, but would eventually take the loss in that one.

Houston counters with Greinke, who is making this start after a couple of good outings in a row. He went 6 innings in both and only surrendered a single run across the two games. Greinke’s ERA for the season has dropped to 2.95 and he is now 6-1 since being acquired by the Astros. He has faced the Angels once already since heading to Houston, and beat them in 6.2 innings while only giving up 3 runs, 2 earned.

Game 2: Patrick Sandoval, LHP (0-3, 4.91 ERA) vs Wade Miley, LHP (14-5, 3.71 ERA)

The Angels will start Patrick Sandoval for this one, who is getting his first taste of the majors. Called up at the beginning of August, he has a 4.91 ERA in 8 games, one of which he was used as a bulk innings guy behind an opener. Sandoval has yet to have an outing longer than five innings, which he’s only done twice so far this year. This game it will be his first career start against the Astros.

Miley seemed to right the ship his last time out, finally getting out of the first inning for the first time in three tries. He had a solid six inning performance after that, holding the Royals to just two runs in those frames and securing the win. Miley will get a couple more shots at a tune up before October to prove that he’s back to being the grinder that the Astros saw at the beginning of the season. This will be his third start against the Angels, who he has pitched well against in 2019. He has yet to give up more than 2 runs in an outing against them.

Game 3: Jose Rodriguez, RHP (0-0, 1.84 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (19-6, 2.50 ERA)

The Angels will send a 2019 call up to the mound to start the second straight game in the form of Jose Rodriguez. He will most likely be employed as an opener in this one considering that he’s been used exclusively in relief so far in his MLB career, and has not gone longer than 4 innings, usually closer to 2 or 3. He has looked good so far, only giving up 3 runs across 14.2 innings so far, but he has struggled with walks in a few outings as well. Jose Suarez is a candidate for “bulk innings guy” in this game, but he was lit up for 6 runs against the Yankees his last time out so we’ll see if the Angels go with someone else.

As for the Astros, they will send Verlander to the mound as he chases a few personal milestones in his final games of the season. He’s one away from winning 20 games for the second time in his MLB career, and is 11 strikeouts shy of 3,000 total. He could also get to 300 K’s in a single season for the first time if he can punch out 17 more in his last two games. All of these goals seem within reach for Verlander, who is neck and neck with teammate Gerrit Cole in the Cy Young race.

Game 1: Friday, September 20th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels – KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels – FS-W / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 2: Saturday, September 21st @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels – KLAA 830 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels – FS-W / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Sunday, September 22nd @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Angels – KLAA 830, KWKW 1330 / Astros – KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Angels – FS-W / Astros – ATT SportsNet-SW

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