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Houston Astros Series Preview: Leave the Rally Monkey at Home

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After losing two of three to the Oakland Athletics, the Houston Astros now sit at 4-5, just a half a game behind the A’s for the best record in the AL West. Tied with the Astros at 4-5 are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, this weekend’s opponent. Last season the Astros went 7-12 against Anaheim, but held a 5-4 record at Minute Maid Park.

As Andy and Eric talked about on the podcast, the Astros bats have been cold, but this could be the series that they wake up, as some of Houston’s batters have had decent success against the starting trio that the Angels will be throwing out there. And yes, I will be saying, “this could be the series the bats wake up” until they do.

I posed some questions to Halo Hangout staff writer, Trey Hannula, about his team.

Dodger legend Andrew Heaney was solid in his first outing against Sacramento, but struggled Wednesday night against Fresno. What is his time frame for reaching the majors?

There are a lot of factors surrounding Heaney’s timeline with the Angels. Coming into the year, he was presumed to be the #5 starter and almost a lock considering Garrett Richard’s injury, but after an ugly spring training was to set to begin the year with Salt Lake. But somewhat surprisingly, Hector Santiago, who was destined for a bullpen role coming into the season, has pitched pretty well starting for the Halos and could hang around longer if he continues to pitch well. With Richards coming back this weekend, Heaney could be spending more time in AAA than previously imagined. I would say until Santiago falters or an injury occurs will be when Heaney is called up.

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C.J. Wilson has been an all or nothing pitcher with LAA. Is there any reason to believe that this will change in 2015?

C.J. Wilson has had his ups and downs with the Angels since signing three years ago. His first year was lackluster, second was great, and last year was a train wreck. There are claims that he was pitching through an ankle injury last year which could give reason why his ERA ballooned to 4.51 in 31 starts, and I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a mid-3 ERA pitcher in 2015. He dominated the Mariners in his first start of the season before being roughed up by the Royals last week so it will take a bit longer before we get a real idea if anything has changed. One positive note so far, he’s walked just two batters in 13.2 innings, after struggling with his control last season.

Mike Trout is pretty amazing, but is there one trait that doesn’t get recognized as much as you feel it should?

Mike Trout has become so good that he really doesn’t really blow away people like he did when he was 20, it’s almost just expected of him nowadays. But if there’s something that the media loses focus on today, it might be his blazing speed. He stole 49 bases in 2012 and there is no reason to believe he couldn’t swipe 50 if he decided to. His SB numbers have declined the last few years as he isn’t attempting nearly as often, but people should still note that he’s still one of the fastest players in the game.

Who will be the Angels toughest competition in the AL West this season?

If you were to ask that question before the season started, most people, myself included, would have said the Mariners would present the biggest challenge but now I’m kinda waning towards the A’s as the steepest competition. As of today, they have a +23 run differential which is 28 more runs than the Angels who rank second in that category in the AL West. I think the A’s and Angels will grab playoff spots this October.

Finally, why is the Rally Monkey still a thing?

The Rally Monkey is a thing because 1) it’s simply awesome and totally original 2) it has strong ties to the Angels 2002 World Series victory, especially Game 6 when the Angels came back to win after being down 5-0 in the 7th inning against the Giants and 3) we don’t have a mascot like Orbit or the Philly Fanatic so it’s something fun for the fans I suppose. It definitely doesn’t creep me out like Mr. Met does so I’m all for keeping the Rally Monkey.

I don’t know which to thank Trey more for, the insight into the Angels, or for taking my Rally Monkey question seriously. Either way, thank you very much!

Let’s get down to the pitching match-ups. On paper, the Angels have the advantage on the whole, but no games have ever been won on paper.

Friday: Jered Weaver (0-2, 8.71) vs. Roberto Hernandez (0-1, 1.93)

Weaver has been tagged for ten runs in 10 1/3 innings this season against the Mariners and Royals. Marwin Gonzalez has gone 2-for-5 against Weaver in his career, so look for him to get the start somewhere on the diamond. In a strange twist, Trout (of course) is the only player on the Angels’ 25-man roster that has had some success against Hernandez, going 3-for-8 with two solo home runs.

Saturday: C.J. Wilson (1-1, 3.95) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 1.29)

Watch out for David Freese in this game, as he has some ownage going on against the Houston Astros’ crafty lefty. Freese is 7-for-11 (.636) in his career against Keuchel with a home run and six rbi. Trout is 5-for-19 with eight K’s. Wilson pitched beautifully against Seattle, going eight innings of two-hit ball in his first start, but allowed seven runs (six earned) in 5 2/3 innings against Kansas City as an encore.

Who is the Astros team leader in career home runs against Wilson? Why Jose Altuve, of course! Ok, he’s actually tied with Chris Carter at two, but that’s way less exciting to say.

Sunday: Garrett Richards (–) vs. Scott Feldman (0-2, 6.17)

Feldman’s 0-2 record is misleading, as he pitched a fantastic game against Cleveland to start the season, going 6 2/3 innings of five-hit, one run ball. The Angels have hit two long balls off of Feldman, and both were off Trout’s bat. Richards, meanwhile, is fresh off of his less-than-stellar start against Houston’s Triple-A affiliate Fresno Grizzlies on Tuesday night. The 6’3″ righty went five plus innings, allowing five runs on seven hits, including a Preston Tucker home run. Chris Carter is 6-for-15 (.400) against Richards in his career, and yes, he’s hit a home run off of him. Jed Lowrie has the team’s only other career dinger, but most of the team has hit Richards fairly well. Look for Robbie Grossman (4-for-7) and Colby Rasmus (4-for-9) to start in the outfield, which will spell a day off for either Jake Marisnick or George Springer.

In my predictions for the previous series I went 1-for-2. Carter did not go deep, but Evan Gattis did get a hit! Let’s try this again for the weekend series against the Halos.

Marisnick will cool down a little this series, and will get Sunday off. That’s the bad news. The good news is George Springer will come to life this weekend, with Thursday’s off-day doing him some good. His career batting average against the Angels’ staff is at .133, but he’s 1-for-3 against Wilson and Weaver. There is a little room for hope there. I’ll predict that he collects five hits this weekend.

Although his brother is in Triple-A Salt Lake right now, I’m hoping that Colby Rasmus (outfielder) and Cory Rasmus (relief pitcher) will get the chance to square off at some point this season.

The Astros have a good shot to take two of three in this series, which would bring them up to .500 on the season. Let’s go ‘Stros!

Next: Grizzlies Rock Heaney, Bees Keep Buzzing

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