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Series Preview: Angels @ Astros (Gaining Ground)

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Angels bring their hot streak into the Texas heat

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

If you were a casual Angels fan, would you want to see them as sellers given their current hot streak?  Probably not.  We need to settle on the reality that we won't be doing any farm building and probably won't be trading any players (though a Joe Smith trade wouldn't surprise me).

The Angels are the hottest team in baseball right now and have scored 110 runs in July (14 more than the next highest team).  They have the second highest AVG, highest OBP, and best team WAR.  They also continue to have the lowest strikeout rate.  It's no surprise they are still good at grounding into double plays, and lead all of baseball in July with 20.  The Astros rank 10th in runs scored during July with 72 and are 24th overall in batting average at .237

Pitching hasn't been a strong point this season, but so far in July the Angels rank 4th in the AL with a 3.43 team ERA.  Angels hurlers are still good at giving up long balls and rank 5th in July with 21 allowed through 16 games.  Astros pitchers rank last in HR allowed with only 10 during July and they are 3rd in team ERA at 3.26.

While the Angels have won 6 straight and 10 of their last 12, the Astros are a .500 team over this last 10 games against the A's and Mariners.

Biggest question(s): Is the recent run a fluke or a change that will carry us back up the standings?

Game 1
Matt Shoemaker vs. Lance McCullers
Friday, July 22nd, 2016 @ 5:10PM

Shoemaker is our ace.  Deal with it.

Matt Shoemaker v. Houston Astros (2015-2016)
G IP AB HR K BAA ERA
5 31.2 118 4 35 .245 3.17
Lance McCullers v. Anaheim Angels (2015-2016)
G IP AB HR K BAA ERA
5 30.2 116 2 27 .224 2.38
Players/Stats to watch:
Jose Altuve v. Matt Shoemaker (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR OBP
17 7 2 2 .417
Colby Rasmus v. Matt Shoemaker (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR OBP
16 6 2 1 .375
Jett Bandy v. Lance McCullers (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR OBP
3 3 0 0 1.000
Albert Pujols v. Lance McCullers (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR OBP
11 4 1 1 .364
Matt Shoemaker was second in Rookie of the Year voting in 2014 then he regressed in 2015 and people wondered if it was a fluke.  Now he's having a great year if you take out the month of April.  He's been worse on the road though, and the Angels are in Houston.  Last time Shoey pitched in Houston was on June 22nd when he allowed only 3 runs over 7.1 innings and he struck out 7.  He's been pretty solid against the Astros this year with 21.2 IP, 5 runs allowed and 24 Ks.  He lost the matchup vs. McCullers in June because the Angels only scored 2 runs.
Twenty-two year old Lance McCullers is in his 2nd big league season.  The sophomore slump has definitely sunk in as he went from a 1.186 WHIP in 2015 to 1.636 this year.  His ERA has also gone up a bit, but he's given up only 2 homeruns (he gave up 10 in twice the innings last year).  McCullers is a strikeout pitcher and has struck out 80 through 62 innings in 2016.  Last time he faced the Angels, he struck out 6 over 5.2 innings and allowed only 1 run.  He's been pretty hard on them over his two years in his 5 games.  He has a 3-2 record against the Angels and his losses came in games where he only gave up 1 and 2 runs.
VERDICT: Shoemaker is basically our current ace and he will get the win IF our offense can figure out McCullers and get to him early.

Game 2
Jered Weaver vs. Collin McHugh
Saturday, July 23rd @ 4:10PM

Be a BeWeaver!

Jered Weaver v. Houston Astros (2015-2016)
G IP AB HR K BAA ERA
6 38 146 6 27 .267 4.50

Collin Mchugh v. Angels Current Lineup (career)
G IP AB HR K BAA ERA
5 23.1 126 4 25 .254 5.06

Players/Stats to watch:
Jose Altuve v. Jered Weaver (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
33 13 3 0 .394
Carlos Correa v. Jered Weaver (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
10 4 5 1 .400
Jason Castro v. Jered Weaver (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
23 6 6 3 .261
George Springer v. Jered Weaver (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
18 8 3 2 .444
Albert Pujols v. Collin McHugh (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
19 7 4 1 .368
Mike Trout v. Collin McHugh (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
17 6 4 2 .353
Kole Calhoun v. Collin McHugh (last 5 years)
AB H RBI HR BA
26 8 0 0 .308

Somehow, Jered Weaver hit 87.5 MPH on his fastball during his last game.  It's hard to ever count him out isn't it?  Weaver has had a rough time with the Astros over the past two years and gave up 6 runs against them at home on June 29th. As you can see above, much of the Astros roster has had good success against the Weave.  Weaver is coming off two great back to back starts were he has gone 13 innings and allowed only 1 run per start.

McHugh has regressed a bit this last few years after finishing 4th in the ROY voting in 2014.  McHugh garnered back to back wins against the Angels in June, allowing just 2 runs in each game.  His last time out, McHugh shut out the Mariners over 6 innings and struck out 10.  He's not the pitcher he was in 2014 but he's still pretty effective.

VERDICT: This will probably be the toughest matchup for the Angels and the Astros definitely have the edge here.


Game 3
??? vs. Mike Fiers
Sunday, July 24th, 2016 @ 11:10AM

We might see Skaggs on Sunday!

Mike Fiers v. Anaheim Angels (2015-2016)
G IP AB HR K BAA ERA
3 17.1 71 5 12 .254 6.84
Players/Stats to watch:
Kole Calhoun v. Mike Fiers (career)
AB H RBI HR BA
9 3 2 1 .333
It's really not clear who is going to pitch this game, but there is a high probability that Tyler Skaggs will get called up to take the mound.  Skaggs last pitched a big league game on July 31st, 2014 before having season-ending Tommy John surgery.  Skaggs has been an absolute force this year in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.  He has a 1.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, .190 BAA, and 53Ks through 39.1 innings.  Over his last two starts he struck out 26 batters and allowed only 2 hits and zero runs in 12.2 innings.
Mike Fiers hasn't gotten past the 4th inning in his last two starts and only made it 3.2 innings when he faced the Angels back on May 27th in Anaheim.  He's been pretty inconsistent this year, ranging from 3.x inning games to 7 innings.  He's managed to put up a 10-8 record but mostly thanks to some key run support in a few of his games.  He's given up a fair amount (16) of home runs this season, including one to Albert Pujols.

VERDICT: Assuming Skaggs takes the mound, I'm going with the Angels on this one.

OVERALL VERDICT: If we win game 1 and Skaggs pitches game 3, the Angels at least have a shot at a series win. Key game will be Saturday when Weaver pitches.