The Angels return home Friday from their quick and depressing road trip to Texas, and are looking for yet another season restart after dropping the last two series. For some reason, we've already played the Rangers three times, Mariners twice, A's once, but have yet to play the Astros. Now we get to see how we match up against the cellar team in the AL West. Going into this season, no one predicted the Mariners would be leading the division two months into the season, with Houston trailing 9.5 games behind (as of Thursday morning).
Through Wednesday, the Angels have scored just 3 more runs than the Astros in 2016. The Astros pitching has struggled and ranks 4th from last in ERA and BAA. Stolen bases is about the only stat where the Astros rule (they rank 1st with 39), unless you count strikeouts by batters. Astro hitters love to run, and Bandy and Perez love to throw them out, so will probably get lots of action. Astro hitters have racked up 463 Ks which is about 50 more than the second place team and nearly 200 more than The Angels.
Biggest question(s): Can the Angels rebound from losing back to back series?
Matt Shoemaker vs. Mike Fiers
Friday, May 27th, 2016 @ 7:05PM
Flip a coin, heads you get Fear the Beard, tails you get a broken down cobbler.
Shoemaker is coming off a strong 7.1 scoreless start, and gave up only 3 ER in his previous start of 5 IP. It's hard to believe he has it all figured out, and it seems it could come crumbling down at any moment. Case in point is a pitcher who loves to give up homeruns against a team that loves to hit them. Fortunately for Shoemaker, the last time he found himself in this scenario, not only did he not give up a HR, but he shut them (Orioles) out for 7.1 innings. He's need some of that magic mojo again on Friday. When Shoemaker faced the Astros last July, he got the loss despite giving up zero runs over 7 innings and striking out 7 on only 3 hits. Shoey was on the bad end of some horrible Angels offense (who were shut out), and Fernando Salas who gave up a 3 run walk off homerun.
Mike Fiers has given up 2 or less runs in 5 of his starts this year. He's actually been a pretty average pitcher in 2016 and one of the better starters for the struggling Astros. Despite that, he's given up the most homeruns on the team (9), so hopefully the Angels can take advantage of that.
VERDICT: This game most likely hinges on how well of a start Shoemaker has, and how well his strikeout pitch is working agains a high strikeout team.
Jered Weaver vs. Dallas Kuechel (probable)
Saturday, May 28, 2016 @ 7:05PM
Beards are so last season. Kuechel is not the Kuechel of 2015.
Weaver continues to silence the skeptics and now has back to back 7 inning starts, though he does have a 5.33 ERA this year. In 2015, he was 2-1 vs. the Astros, and he bested Dallas Kuechel last September in a 6-3 Angels win. Altuve has had Weaver's number the last few years, and of course, is off to a great start again in 2016.
Astros fans are wondering where Dallas Kuechel went. From a Cy Young winner and All-Star to a struggling starter with a 5.92 ERA. Kuechel was able to stymy the Angels in 2015, but it's hard to compare the two seasons at this point.
VERDICT: Weaver needs to keep the Halos in this game long enough for out offense to get to Kuechel. Kuechel's out of zone swing % is way down this year, and most of this year's Angels roster is pretty disciplined at the plate.
Nick Tropeano vs. Doug Fister (probable)
Sunday, May 29, 2016 @ 12:35PM
Fister spent his last two seasons in the NL with the Nationals.
Tropeano has only given up 1 ER in his last two starts (13.2 IP). His last two starts have easily been his best of 2016. He has the ability to put up a high K rate, and should be effective against Houston hitters.
Fister has had a year similar to Fiers, and has been pretty average, which is neither good nor bad for the Angels. He's only given up more than 3 runs in a game once this year. He's also given up his fair share of 2016 dingers (8).
VERDICT: May be a close matchup for the series finale with a probable edge to Tropeano.
OVERALL VERDICT: Angels "should" come out of this with a series win.