Astros Series Preview: An Encounter In The Heavens

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 18: Jose Altuve
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 18: Jose Altuve /

Well, the Astros suddenly remembered how to score runs. Excellent.

The Astros are playing the Angels this week. Three games to be exact. This early season series may have some bearing on the division race between these two teams.

AL West Standings entering Monday, April 23rd

  1. Astros – 16-7 W-L; GB – 0

  2. Angels – 14-8 W-L; GB – 1.5

  3. Mariners – 11-9; GB – 3.5

  4. Athletics – 11-11; GB – 4.5

  5. Rangers – 8-15; GB – 8

Oh, look, the Rangers are eight games behind the Astros.

*Insert pleasing chuckle*

Anyway, the Astros and Angels are the top two teams in the AL West in the early going. In fact, the Angels led the division for 13 days while the Astros forgot how to hit. Thanks to a much-needed series sweep against the White Sox, however, has propelled Houston to the top of the division standings once again. But one shouldn’t discount these Angels.

Looking ahead to the actual baseball games, here are how the starting pitchers matchup in this bout in the heavens.

Game #1: RHP Gerrit Cole (2-0, 0.96 ERA) vs. LHP Tyler Skaggs (2-1, 3.98 ERA)

Game #2: RHP Charlie Morton (3-0, 0.72 ERA) vs. RHP Shohei Ohtani (2-1, 3.60 ERA)

Game #3: RHP Justin Verlander (3-0, 1.10 ERA) vs. RHP Nick Tropeano (1-1, 3.75 ERA)

Let’s be frank for a second: the Angels are a quality baseball team. Mike Trout is the best overall player in baseball. The Angels’ star already leads all of the qualified hitters in fWAR (1.8). He also leads baseball in home runs (9). Wow.

Then there is the sensational Shohei Ohtani, the two-way phenom. In terms of offense, Ohtani has a 171 wRC+ in 45 plate appearances with three home runs. However, he has struck out 26.7% of the time thus far, but small sample should be invoked.

That said, it is rather doubtful that the Astros will see Ohtani bat much in this series, if at all. Ohtani is the scheduled starter for Tuesday’s game against Charlie Morton. In 15 innings, Ohtani, the pitcher, has a 3.60 ERA and 3.16 FIP. Besides his latest start against the Red Sox, he has performed quite well as a pitcher. In fact, Ohtani’s outing against Houston may serve as a notable test of his pitching abilities.

The Astros have won six straight and seven of their past ten games. One key to the Astros success this season has been the starting rotation, which leads baseball with a 2.10 ERA. The team’s best starters this season will all be on the mound for this important division tilt. Of course, it would be irresponsible of this author to not include a mention to the offense. Over the past seven days, the Astros’ lineup has produced a 135 wRC+ with nine home runs and 48 runs scored.

Next: Astros Minor League Recap April 16-22: Grizzlies stay hot

All in all, this series should be an awfully fun one if you like quality baseball. Well, in terms of the matchup. Actual baseball games can always take that unexpected turn for the best or for the worst. But this series will impact the division in some fashion. Let’s see if the Astros can turn it to their advantage.

**Statistics and information provided by FanGraphs and ESPN**