Angels Preview: Oakland Athletics, Houston Astros

Home! Sweet Home! - Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

After opening the season with two road series, the Angels are heading home. The Athletics step onto the Kentucky bluegrass first and then Bo Porter and his young children Astros get their turn.

Last week was interesting. The Halos started the 2013 campaign with a near-five hour game against the Reds which was followed by yet another expected duel in Arlington. And one can not ignore the strikeout bonanza from Josh Hamilton. But, it's a new week! So freshen up and look ahead!

Athletics at Angels (April 9 7:05pm, April 10 7:05pm, April 11 7:05pm)

The Oakland A's will be heading into Angel Stadium as the Halos' first visitor this season. Just as it was last season, the team still lacks names. But who says that's necessary to win? Last year it worked so Billy Beane is giving Bob Melvin the same tools and hoping for the same result.

For the A's starting rotation, every one of their starting pitchers are under thirty years old. One would think that the lack of experience would hinder the team; however, this was not the case and Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin, and Jarrod Parker blossomed into impressive pitchers. And to help this young rotation, Brett Anderson is hoping to play a full-season after having Tommy John surgery and a setback oblique strain. Last season, the Halos went 9-10 against Bob Melvin's crew and this season should remain tight as well because of the experience that is now under Oakland's belt. Josh Hamilton should add some familiarity after playing against the A's for a number of seasons (but hopefully not in this way).

Oakland's lineup, on the other hand, really impresses me. Billy Beane was able to steal Jed Lowrie and acquire Chris Young from the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros, respectively, to maintain the core of his offense. Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Coco Crisp continue to lead the team so the Angels will need to be on their toes because Reddick and Cespedes certainly carry a nice pop when they make contact.

Projected Starting Pitchers -- Parker/Wilson, Milone/Blanton, Griffin/Vargas

Astros at Angels (April 12 7:05pm, April 13 6:05pm, April 14 12:35pm)

Heading into the season, the expectations for the Astros were set extremely low. Plenty of people bashed them for their lack of spending (which sits around a $22 million payroll). Is this really a problem? Remember when the Florida Marlins converted to the Miami Marlins? Their payroll doubled and ballooned into a mess that has left fans with only Giancarlo Stanton (although although he may be on the move). I highly doubt Jim Crane wants to throw money around only to have no flow between players and coaches.

Anyways, back to the field. In the Astros' American League debut, they lit up the scoreboard against the formidable Texas Rangers. And what better time to do it: Opening Day on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. The Astros had all hands on deck. Justin Maxwell had two runs batted in to go along with a triple that nearly left Minute Maid Park and Rick Ankiel added three runs with a pinch-hit home run that contributed to an 8-2 win. And in that same game, they only needed Bud Norris and Erik Bedard to pitch. Now, of course, I am not saying that this is what we'll see from the Astros every game, but it is a great showing of potential.

With the Astros' pitching staff being young and unseasoned, the Angels should be able to energize up their bats and catch some fire. Things started slow in Cincinnati and became frustrating in the Texas opener. The Astros' starting rotation is not one with much MLB service and the Halos can finally catch a break. After all, they did start the season against pitchers like Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, and Yu Darvish. Maybe Josh Hamilton will get his first bomb by/during this series. Albert Pujols on the other hand should have a ton of fun against Houston and who knows, maybe he will get a little nostalgic when facing them.

On the pitching front, I do believe that the Angels should be ready for two batters in particular. Chris Carter has a ton of pop in his bat and Justin Maxwell, one of my personal favorites from their roster, is a player who can easily jump start his lineup. And they even have Carlos Pena who doesn't carry a decent average but does give the Astros something they'll need -- home runs (like this one). But, the Angels will likely have the "Double W" (anyone like that name?) combo on the hill with C.J. and Jered so they should fare well.

Projected Starting Pitchers -- Harrell/Hanson, Humber /Weaver, Bedard /Wilson

Note: Thanks everyone for the feedback last week! I will certainly keep making adjustments.

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