Series Preview #2: Astros @ Angels (Two Game Tango)

Astros (4-0) @ Angels (3-1)

It is a little hard to believe that today will be the first time that the Astros visit a fan-filled Big A since the news of the cheating scandal dropped. Although the fans will be limited to capacity, it seems they will finally get booed in Angels Stadium, something that was going to happen in 2020 before the pandemic created “domed” baseball.

On the baseball side of things, George Springer is gone north of the border, but the other major players of the Astros recent success are still present. Familiar faces like José Altuve, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel still comprise the meat of the batting order. The Astros come into SoCal having swept the Oakland A’s, scoring 8+ runs in each of the four games. It will be a tall task to slow this team down.

Astros Lineup

Photo from Fangraphs

These are the names that have burned through Angels pitching in the past. In the infield, Gurriel, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman form as solid an infield core as there is in the Majors (although Walsh-Fletcher-Iglesias-Rendon might have something to say about that), with not an easy out among them.

Michael Brantley in left field has been a solid addition to the outfield the past two seasons, but he was hit by a pitch on Saturday and remains day-to-day. The Astros don’t feel that he has to go on the Injured List, so we may see Brantley this series. Kyle Tucker, an erstwhile top prospect, finally got an everyday role in 2020, and he shined to the tune of an 0.837 OPS (123 OPS+). Myles Straw doesn’t hit that well, but he displays positional versatility (mainly short and outfield, although he has played other infield positions), and Houston likes him well enough to seemingly give the everyday center field job.

The Astros catcher tandem consists of former Angels Martín Maldonado and Jason Castro, both of whom we recognize from past years. The big new story is Yordan Álvarez, the big slugger who is the designated hitter for this talented team. After winning the AL RoY award in 2019, Álvarez missed most of 2020 with an injury, but he is now back and is mashing. Although his defense leaves much to be desired, Álvarez is a top-10 hitter in baseball, and he will be recognized as such if he completes a healthy 2021. Let’s try to avoid this guy:

Probable Pitchers

Photo from 538

The Astros will trot out righty Luis García on Monday night. (No, this isn’t the same pitcher that pitched for the Halos a few years back.) This García signed out of Venezuela in 2017, and he made his Major League debut in 2020. With Framber Valdez and Jake Odorizzi temporarily on the shelf and Justin Verlander recovering from Tommy John surgery, García was able to sneak that 5th rotation spot. According to Baseball Savant, García throws a fastball (50+% of the time), changeup, slider, cutter, and curveball, although the slider and cutter are almost exclusively thrown to righties and the curve to lefties. The changeup garnered a 47.6% whiff rate in 2020, albeit in a small sample size.

José Quintana makes his Angels debut. Quintana has struggled the past three years with the Cubs, but he throws a beautiful curveball, and perhaps he can emulate the Dylan Bundy/Alex Cobb model rather than the Matt Harvey/Julio Teheran model and use his secondary pitches and the defense to success. Facing off against a great hitting lineup like the Astros, it’s hard to be confident in his success, but stranger things have happened.

Zack Greinke has pretty much never had a bad season in his career, as he tries to add to his borderline-Hall of Fame resume. This will be the second start of his season, and he went six scoreless in the first, giving up three hits, walking none, and striking out four. Last season, Greinke took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the Angels. Let’s hope the same doesn’t happen in Tuesday’s getaway game.

Because of the 6-man rotation that the Angels employ, Griffin Canning will make his first start Tuesday afternoon. Canning impressed me in 2019, but he was a little more hit-prone in 2020, and his WHIP increased to 1.37 in the shortened season. The former UCLA product, Canning will need to deliver a strong 2021 to convince me that he should be in our future plans as another rotation stalwart rather than another guy who demonstrates flashes of success but never puts together consistent performances.

Edit: Dylan Bundy now starts tomorrow.

Astros Bullpen

Photo from Fangraphs

The Astros bullpen is very talented, and the team showed they could cobble together a success with a bunch of guys casual fans had not heard of in 2020. Of course, Ryan Pressly is the big name in the back of the bullpen, and just like with Hendriks last series, the Angels should try to avoid him. Joe Smith is a familiar face, and the Astros also carry two lefties in Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor. Everyone but bulk man Brandon Bielak is rested, and they should be ready to go in this two-game set.

Prediction

Odds are that the Angels will be able to take at least one of these two games, but seeing the way that the Astros mashed against the A’s makes me nervous. Quintana will need to deliver serviceable innings in Game 1, and Greinke is always tough in Game 2. The Angels are 3-1 right now, but I see them dropping both games in this set. Thoughts?

Edit: With Bundy starting Game 2, I am more confident in our chances.

(Title photo from Astros Twitter)

19 Comments
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Angels2020Champs
Super Member
1 year ago

Anyone have tips for bringing their kids to a game and seeing batting practice or anything? We got to the game by first pitch on 4/2 & 4/3 but have a chance to get there earlier tonight and tomorrow (I don’t think they do BP for day games right?)

cookmeister
Trusted Member
1 year ago

is Brantley out? he got hit on the wrist, he might miss both games depending how he’s feeling (and we prob won’t have Ohtani tonight)

Angels2020Champs
Super Member
1 year ago
Reply to  cookmeister

I thought he was day to day with a better chance playing tmw (Brantley). I’m hoping Shohei is back by tmw too.

cookmeister
Trusted Member
1 year ago

ya you just never know with wrists. never want a player to get injured but would be nice not to have to face him

Angels2020Champs
Super Member
1 year ago
Reply to  cookmeister

I can only imagine getting hit on the wrist at 90+. We’d be talking months off for me, not a day or two. I was surprised during ST when Albert got hit on the wrist, I think he only missed a game. Especially because that was just ST.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
1 year ago

In other news, both Simba and Shoey had good games for Minnesota today.

Mia
Legend
Mia
1 year ago

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

*takes breath*

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

red floyd
Legend
1 year ago
Reply to  Mia

May I join in?

comment image

Mia
Legend
Mia
1 year ago
Reply to  red floyd

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UtahAlumnus
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Please please please let me be able to talk trash to my die-hard-Astros-fan coworker tomorrow.

Angels2020Champs
Super Member
1 year ago

Classic Angels has them dropping two but hoping current team can keep the games competitive and pull them out!

UtahAlumnus
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Sorry, didn’t copy you on the memo. It states that THIS is our year. 2021. So it’s all good 🙂

Mia
Legend
Mia
1 year ago

This isn’t your parents Angels team.

😉

Angels2020Champs
Super Member
1 year ago
Reply to  Mia

I liked those uniforms best though

Mia
Legend
Mia
1 year ago

The California Angels throwbacks are 🔥

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
1 year ago

Tough series. I think I’d take a split here if offered but could see 0-2. But with the way this team is playing right now, both games are on the table.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

We are playing well, and with heart and hustle. Houston is also on a run, sweeping the A’s – so it will just be who can keep it up. Your assessment is on point, as usual, but I am still hoping we can power through. A split would be entirely acceptable (but you never want to lose).

LanaBanana
Super Member
1 year ago

A split is acceptable if and only if we lose tonight.