Series Preview: Astros at Angels



The Houston Astros picked up their season’s first series win Wednesday night with an 8-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners. The Astros now head into Anaheim, California for the first time since 2007. Houston has gotten a heavy dose of the AL West to start the season, and will conclude their divisional introductions with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Astros’ offense exploded for 24 runs on 37 hits, including eight home runs, in the final two games of the Mariners’ series. They will hope to continue their offensive prowess versus an Angels staff that is missing it’s ace, Jered Weaver.

Game 1: April 12th at 9:05 CT
Bud Norris (1-1, 3.18 ERA) vs Tommy Hanson (1-0, 4.50 ERA)

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Tommy Hanson made his first start as an Angel on April 6th in Arlington against the Rangers and had a strong outing. He surrendered three runs over six innings pitched, and gave up two home runs, which isn’t too alarming in that stadium. Brett Wallace is the only Astros’ hitter with more than five career at-bats against Hanson, and he is 0-9 with five strikeouts. Game one is probably not a good time to ease the slumping Wallace back into the starting lineup.

Bud Norris will be making his third start of the young season, and his first road start. Norris started the season strong against the Rangers on Opening Day, and nearly replicated those numbers against the Athletics on April 6th. Last season Norris’ road numbers were horrible (3-12, 6.94) so he will look to turn that around. The only Angels hitter with a considerable amount of at-bats versus Norris is Albert Pujols, who has put up just a .192 average in 26 career ABs. Norris has yet to go longer than 5.2 innings this season, and with the Astros’ weak bullpen that is something that needs to change immediately.

Game 2: April 13th at 8:05 CT
Lucas Harrell (0-2, 7.84 ERA) vs Garrett Richards (0-0, 2.08 ERA)

Garrett Richards is making his first start of the season, taking the place of the injured Jered Weaver. He has made four appearances this year out of the bullpen. Richards has made just twelve starts for the Angels since 2011 with very limited success. He has a mid-90s fastball, a cutter, a slider that he uses frequently, and a change up. Because Richards has been working out of the pen, he shouldn’t be expected to go much more than four innings before the bullpen takes over.

Lucas Harrell had some serious control problems in his last start against Oakland. He lasted just 4.1 innings, allowing eight runs on seven hits while walking five. He consistently fell behind in the count and then had to give in to the hitter, and it ended up costing him as he gave up three long balls. Walks + home runs = disaster. Harrell has little to no experience against any of the hitters in the Angels lineup, but if he can keep the ball down and limit the number of walks he should be fine.

Game 3: Sunday, April 14th at 2:35 CT
Philip Humber (0-2, 3.09 ERA) vs C.J. Wilson (0-0, 5.25 ERA)

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C.J. Wilson made his last start against Oakland on Tuesday and had a rough start to the game before settling down. He went six innings, allowing six hits and four runs while striking out seven. Wilson retired 15 of the last 17 hitters he faced. Wilson relies heavily on his fastball-curveball combination, and over his career he’s gotten just over 50% of the hitters he’s faced to put the ball on the ground. C.J. Wilson is the lone lefty starter that the Astros will face in this series.

Philip Humber has had back-to-back strong starts, yet he’s been stuck with two losses. In his last start versus the Mariners, he allowed three earned over six innings while striking out two. Humber’s average fastball velocity is down from last season by over 1 mph in his first two starts. He has also thrown nearly 19% more breaking pitches this season than he has averaged over his career. I would like to see Humber, as well as the rest of the Astros’ starters, be more efficient so that they can limit the bullpen’s usage.

Worth Noting:

  • The Astros’ lineup scored just 17 runs through the first seven games of the season before exploding for 24 runs in their last two games. That has raised Houston’s Pythagorean Expectancy from a winning percentage of .160 to a .393, which would allow them to avoid three straight 100 loss seasons.
  • Albert Pujols has played in 177 career games against the Astros and has a .311 average with 42 home runs and 112 RBI during that time.
  • The Angels have the highest payroll in the American League West at $137,271,250. That means there is a $111,165,650 difference between the Astros and Angels payrolls.