It goes without saying these two things that I will say anyway. First - the success of this series may hinge on how long Mike Trout is out. Second, the next week should give us a better picture of what the Angels should do for the deadline that is only 2 weeks away. Sweep the Astros - then we buy! Get swept by the Astros? You know the drill.
This year, these two teams have met 5 times and the Angels have only picked up one win. Surprisingly perhaps, is that the win game with Felix Peña pitching against Justin Verlander. Verlander is clearly afraid of the Angels because you won’t see him in the pitching matchups below. It absolutely has nothing to do with the fact that he just pitched on Saturday. He is afraid - and he should be.
Know your foe:
Astros - who’s hot (last 4 days):
(R) Griffin Canning (4.43) v. (R) Josh James (4.91 ERA)
Monday, July 15th @ 7:07PM
Twelve starts this year and Canning has yet to face the Astros - until today. Canning, who has given up 6 home runs in his last 20.2 innings will try to keep the ball in the park against one of the top long ball hitting teams in the league.
The Astros rotation is a bit of a mess at the moment. As such, they will use rookie Josh James as an opener in his first start of 2019. Once James finishes his work, he’ll be relieved by Framber Valdéz who hasn’t faced the Angels this year and has given up 15 ER over his last 7 innings. James has seen the Angels 3 times and has allowed 1 run on 3 hits with 6 Ks over 3 innings.
(L) Andrew Heaney (5.40) v. TBD
Tuesday, July 16th @ 7:07PM
Andrew Heaney saw the Astros right before the All Star break. He threw 85 pitches and gave up 2 runs on 5 hits through 5 innings. He has been on a pattern of one good one bad start since early June so let’s hope he bucks that trend here.
(R) Felix Peña (4.32 v. (R) Gerrit Cole (3.23 ERA)
Wednesday, July 17th @ 7:07PM
Felix Peña was spectacular last Friday vs. the A’s. He threw 7 no hit inning with just a single walked allowed. Peña also generated 15 whiffs in that outing and struck out 6. He only needed 81 pitches, or just over 11 pitches per inning. Normally Peña followed an opener but at this time he’s currently listed as a starter so we’ll see how that shapes up.
Gerrit Cole was plain mean to the Angels back on July 5th. He tossed 7 innings of 3 hit ball and didn’t allowed a run. He also struck out 9. Cole has been hard to beat this year but the Rangers knocked him around for 4 runs his last time out (he still struck out 13).
TBD v. (L) Wade Miley (3.32 ERA)
Thursday, July 18th @ 6:07AM
Wade Miley is continuing where his great 2018 season left off - but perhaps has been even better. His walks are down and his K rate is up. In early May he faced the Angels and allowed only 2 runs over 6 innings of work.
Overall Verdict: We know the Astros are a tough team but these aren’t the worst pitching matchups here. The Angels could walk away with at least a split and may still be above .500 when this set is over.
Current Standings (sorted by playoff odds)
(Pitch tracking data from baseballsavant.mlb.com)
(Splits from FanGraphs Splits Tool and Baseball Reference)
(Standings/odds from fivethirtyeight.com)