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Astros: Previewing four-game road series against Angels

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 25: Brandon Bielak #64 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels during game two of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park on August 25, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 25: Brandon Bielak #64 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels during game two of a doubleheader at Minute Maid Park on August 25, 2020 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Here’s what you need to know about the Houston Astros four-game series against the Angels.

After a hard fought series win against the Texas Rangers, the Houston Astros are hitting the road for an 11-game trip. Their first stop will see them play four games in three days against the division rival Los Angeles Angels.

What was originally a three-game set has been made into four by virtue of a doubleheader on Saturday. The second game of that twin billing is a makeup from Aug. 26, which was postponed due to Hurricane Laura. It’s unfortunate that the game, which was originally to be played at Minute Maid Park, is now being played on the road.

But the Astros will make the best of it, just as they have made the best of difficult circumstances all season. They are 21-15 on the year, sitting only two games behind Oakland for the division lead. The Angels, meanwhile, are 13-25 on the season and mired in last place.

Tonight’s opener will begin at 8:10 p.m. CT, with tomorrow’s doubleheader likely running quite late. The first game begins at 6:10 p.m. with the second game to follow, so prepare to stay up really late on Saturday night if you want to catch both. Sunday’s finale will be at 3:10 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on TBS. All four games are shown locally on ATT SportsNet SW.

Pitching Matchups

The Astros will send Lance McCullers Jr. to the hill in tonight’s opener against Dylan Bundy. McCullers is 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA this year but is coming off a strong outing, allowing just one earned run in six innings against the A’s. Bundy is 4-2 with a strong 2.47 ERA on the season after allowing one run in 5.1 innings in his last start.

For Saturday’s doubleheader, we don’t have a firm announcement, but the expectation is that Brandon Bielak and Jose Urquidy will start these two games, though we’re not sure which of them will start which game. Bielak is 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA and has not pitched since Aug. 25, and he’s completed only two innings total in his last two starts. Urquidy will be making his season debut.

For the Angels, Griffin Canning is set to start the second game of the doubleheader, and he’s 0-3 with a 4.04 ERA on the season. He threw eight innings of one-run ball in his last start and tossed six innings of one-run ball against the Astros back on Aug. 1.

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The Angels have not named a starter for the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader or for Sunday’s finale, but they could turn to some combination of Matt Andriese and Jaime Barria. Andriese has a 6.41 ERA on the season in seven relief appearances and one start, while Barria has a 2.63 ERA in one start and two relief appearances.

The Astros will send Framber Valdez to the mound on Sunday, and he’s been on quite a run. He’s completed seven innings in four of his past five starts and owns a 2.58 ERA on the season with strong peripherals.

Players to Watch

Everyone knows about Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, so keep an eye on infielder David Fletcher. He leads the team in plate appearances and batting average, boasting a .313/.377/.438 line on the season. He’s going to be a tough out.

For the Astros, it will be interesting to see if Michael Brantley can continue the tear he’s been on. He absolutely obliterated the Rangers, driving in nine runs in the three-game series. While Kyle Tucker has cooled off, Brantley immediately picked up the slack and carried the team offensively.

Astros Expectations

The Angels aren’t a good team, but they aren’t push-overs either. Their run differential is noticeably better than their cellar-dwelling counterparts in the Mariners and Rangers, so they lose a lot of close games. Still, it would be reasonable to expect the Astros to take three of four.

The fact that a doubleheader is thrown into the mix will certainly shake things up, as the team’s pitching depth will really be tested over the next week as they play nine games over the next seven days. It’s going to be tough sledding, but the team can still emerge victorious.

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