Angels Head to Houston in the Battle of AL West Cellar Dwellers



The Houston Astros come into this series on their second six-game losing streak of the young season. They played well in New York, taking only one of three but were competitive throughout the series, then came home only to suffer a sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers. After continuing their torrid pace of bad baseball, GM Jeff Luhnow decided it was time to make a flurry of roster moves. In the past week we have seen pitchers Rhiner Cruz and Brad Peacock sent to Triple-A for Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel. On Monday afternoon Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez were both DFA’ed, and Brandon Laird was sent down to Triple-A so that J.D. Martinez could be activated from the DL and Trevor Crowe and Jimmy Paredes could get their first taste of action with the 2013 Astros. Whether or not these moves will improve the team has yet to be seen, but we will definitely be seeing a different outfield rotation that will likely not include Chris Carter (praise The Lord).

The LA Angels had expectations of moving past the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers to take the AL West crown this season. Instead they have been a tremendous disappointment. Last offseason’s big money free agent signee, Albert Pujols, is aging at an incredible rate and making the St. Louis Cardinals look like geniuses for not resigning him. This offseason’s prize free agent, right fielder Josh Hamilton, is off to a slightly worse pace than the Minnesota Twins’ right fielder, Chris Parmelee (who is making about $17 million less than Hamilton this season). While it is still early in the season, the lack of offensive production and below average starting rotation is a cause for concern. The Angels come into this series three for their last ten and fresh off of losing three of four to the Baltimore Orioles.

Game 1: Tuesday, May 7th at 7:10 CT
C.J. Wilson (3-0, 4.04 ERA) vs Jordan Lyles (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

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The Angels have won C.J. Wilson’s last four starts, dating back to his April 14th start versus the Astros in Anaheim. In that start, Wilson held the Astros to one run on five hits while striking out three in his six innings pitched. Since becoming a starting pitcher with the Rangers in 2010, Wilson has thrown over 200 innings in each season. He is right on pace to eclipse that mark again this season.

Jordan Lyles made his first start of the season on Thursday against the Tigers. Lyles looked sharp in that start, allowing two runs and striking out six in his five innings pitched. Lyles’ velocity was up and he touched 95 mph several times. He did, however, leave some pitches out over the plate, which has been a common occurrence throughout his career. He will need to be very cautious going through the meat of the Angels’ order.

Game 2: Wednesday, May 8th at 7:10 CT
Joe Blanton (0-5, 5.97 ERA) vs Bud Norris (3-3, 3.89 ERA)

Joe Blanton is still in search of his first win of the season, yet he has pitched much better in his last two starts. So far this season, his strikeout numbers have been way down while his walks have been way up. That is not the combination that the Angels were hoping for from Blanton. His only above average pitch this season, and throughout most of his career, has been his curveball. Hopefully the Astros will be patient at the plate (for the first time this season) and can knock Blanton from the game early.

Bud Norris will be pitching in the comforts of home, and that is great news for the Astros. Bud’s best road start this year was back on April 12th against the Angels. In that game Bud threw seven shutout innings, allowed just three hits and struck out five. I truly expect Norris to have another good home outing on Wednesday, but I also expected Lucas Harrell to pitch well in his last start against the Tigers.

Game 3: Thursday, May 9th at 7:10 CT
Jason Vargas (1-3, 3.72 ERA) vs Lucas Harrell (3-3, 5.03 ERA)

Jason Vargas has been sharp in his last three appearances, despite only going 1-1 in those starts. In Friday’s start against the Orioles, Vargas threw a complete-game shutout while allowing just three hits. He features a fastball, cutter, curveball, and his best pitch is a changeup. Vargas relies heavily on that changeup, throwing it nearly 31% of the time.

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Lucas Harrell has allowed two or less runs in all but two of his starts. In each of the other two starts he was hammered for eight runs in 4.1 innings. In his last outing, against the Tigers, he allowed ten hits and walked four more hitters. When Harrell is at his best he is a ground ball machine. The Astros will need him to return to form if they are going to have any shot of winning this series.


  • The Astros run differential through 32 games is by far the worst in the league at -75. The second and third worst run differentials in the AL belong to the Blue Jays (-46) and Angels (-32).
  • As pointed out by Houston Chronicle’s Brian Smith, the combined Major League career stats of the Astros’ current outfield include 533 games, 26 HR and 188 RBI.
  • Josh Hamilton is swinging at a career high 43.1% of pitches out of the strike zone. He is only making contact with 52.9% of those pitches.