Astros at Angels Series Preview: Can Houston Cool Off Albert Pujols?


The Houston Astros travel to the west coast to play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this week in a four game series that runs into Sunday. This is one of the joys of playing in the AL West – a late start (9:05 PM CST) on week nights. Make sure you get a nap in before the game.

The Astros are hoping to shake off the offensive stagnation that plagued them in their home series against the Texas Rangers. The Astros were swept at home, getting heavily outscored by their opponent 20 – 5. Houston was blazing hot before the Texas series, but their bats cooled off at home and the starting pitching in the final two games was knocked around early and often. Thankfully for the boys from the Bayou City, they are 10-2 on the road in 2015 and have outscored their opponents 79-44 in those games.  The Astros are 18-10 and are in first place in the division, and are 3-3 so far in May.

The Angels are coming off a series win against the Mariners, winning the final two games. After going .500 in April, LA has had a slow start to May, going 2-4. In their last ten games, the Angels are 4-6, and their overall record is 13-15 which is good for second place in the AL West. They play just as well at home as they do on the road, going 6-7 at Angel Stadium, though they’ve been outscored 51-53.

In the first series these teams played against each other, Houston beat LAA two games to one, and outscored them 11-9.

Albert Pujols is heating up

Albert Pujols, the notorious Astro-killer, has had a slow start to the season. However, he is starting to heat up. The Machine is on a nine-game hit streak where he’s batting .353/.405/.559 with 12 hits, 2 home runs, and 5 RBI.  In the first series against Houston, Prince Albert hit a home run off Pat Neshek in a 4-3 loss for LA in the final game.

Against the current Houston pitching staff, Pujols is batting .285/.336/.528, with 35 hits, 8 home runs, 21 RBI, and 13 strikeouts in 123 at bats.

Keep an eye on the rookies

More from Climbing Tal's Hill

Both the Astros and Angels have called up players in  recent days to their big league clubs. Houston announced yesterday that they called up OF Preston Tucker, who was tearing it up in AAA Fresno, batting .320/ 19 runs/ 10 homers/ 32 RBI/ 1.028 OPS. Tucker will fill in for George Springer, who was concussed after making a spectacular catch and hitting his head on the right field wall at Minute Maid Park. For more on Tucker, check out this piece by CTH’s Eric Huysman.

As for the Angels, they called up C Carlos Perez from AAA Salt Lake City during their series with Seattle, and the rookie hit a walkoff home run in his first game. In the two games he’s played, Perez batted .286/.714/1.000 with two hits, a home run, and two strikeouts.

Projected Matchups

Thursday, May 7 – 9:05 PM CST Start

Collin McHugh (4-0, 3.41 ERA/1.17 WHIP vs Hector Santiago (2-2, 3.14 ERA/1.40 WHIP)

The Astros have yet to lose a game when McHugh starts. After the last two blowout losses to Texas where the starting pitching was badly beat up, the team has to be looking forward to this start so they can turn things around. Neither pitcher faced the opponent during the first series.

Friday, May 8 – 9:05 PM CST Start

Roberto Hernandez (1-2, 4.25 ERA/1.25 WHIP) vs Jered Weaver (0-4, 6.29 ERA/1.46 WHIP)

This could be a good matchup for the Astros against Weaver who has been terrible so far this season. He’s given up 24 earned runs and 8 home runs, and only struck out 15 batters, in 34.1 innings. However, LA did get the win against Houston in Weaver’s start back on April 17, when he held them to two earned runs and six hits over six innings. Weaver has allowed 11 earned runs in his past two starts.

Hernandez lost the matchup against Weaver on April 17, though it was a no decision for him. He gave up three runs on three hits while striking out six batters over six innings.

Saturday, May 9 – 8:05 PM CST Start

Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 0.80 ERA/0.756 WHIP) vs Matt Shoemaker (2-2, 5.40 ERA/1.24 WHIP)

Keuchel got robbed of a victory in Monday’s game against Texas where he went 8.0 innings and gave up one earned run, and had eight strikeouts; the offense only mustered one run. In the first series against the Angels, the Beard pitched six shutout innings, allowing two hits and notching seven strikeouts. He got the victory.

This could be another good batting matchup for Houston against Shoemaker, who has given up 17 earned runs and struck out 27 batters in 28.1 innnings for five starts. The Astros did not face Shoemaker in the first series.

Sunday, May 10 – 2:35 PM CST Start

Scott Feldman (2-3, 5.50 ERA/1.43 WHIP) vs Garrett Richards (2-1, 2.52 ERA/1.16 WHIP)

These two guys matched up against each other in the first series, on April 19.

Feldman allowed two earned runs on six hits over 6.0 innings for his first victory in 2015, while the Astros tagged Richards for four runs (three earned) on five hits, and they drew four walks.

Feldman is looking to rebound after getting beat down in the May 5 loss to Texas, only going 3.0 innings after allowing six earned runs on nine hits.

Richards has only allowed four earned runs in the three games following his loss to Houston. He’s coming off a strong start against the Mariners where he went 7.0 innings, allowing one run on five hits.

Series prediction: 3-1, Astros. The offense will reappear, and the team should win the McHugh and Keuchel starts. Hopefully they’ll keep Weaver’s misery going, and can notch a W there, too.

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