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MLB Preview: Houston Astros (17-17) at Los Angeles Angels (19-16)

HOUSTON ASTROS NOTES:

TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros and Angels will open their first series of the season tonight with a pitching matchup of rookie RHP Hunter Brown opposite former Astros minor leaguer LHP Patrick Sandoval…Sandoval, who the Astros traded in exchange for C Martín Maldonado in 2018, has struggled in his career against his former organization, going 0-4 with a 8.03 ERA (22ER/24.2IP) in seven games (six starts).

ON THE HUNT: RHP Hunter Brown has been arguably the best rookie in the AL this season, as his 1.1 WAR leads all AL rookies, immediately ahead of the A’s 1B Ryan Noda (1.0) and the Yankees SS Anthony Volpe (0.9)…among all AL rookie pitchers, Brown ranks first in ERA (2.60), tied for first in wins (3) and second in innings (34.2) and strikeouts (36) (min. 20 IP).

ON THE BUMP: The Astros rank second in the AL in team ERA (3.32), trailing the Rays (3.01)…their starter’s ERA (3.36) ranks third in the AL, while their bullpen owns a 3.25 ERA.

VS. THE ANGELS: The Astros went 13-6 against the Angels in 2021 and 2022 and own an all-time 112-75 record vs. LAA… the Astros have won five straight series in Anaheim.

TODAY’S ROSTER MOVE: The Astros have reinstated OF Chas McCormick (lower back tightness) from the 10-day IL… Houston optioned IF Rylan Bannon to Triple A Sugar Land to make room for McCormick on the active roster.

GARCIA OUT FOR THE SEASON: Announced on Friday, RHP Luis Garcia will undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery (Tommy John) on his right elbow…a date for the surgery has not been set…Garcia left his last start on May 1 in the 1st inning after experiencing discomfort in his right elbow…he will be out for the remainder of the 2023 season, but is expected to return at some point during the 2024 season.

THE SUNDAY SCARIES: The Astros lost the rubber game of their three-game series in Seattle yesterday by a score of 3-1…DH Yordan Alvarez (2×4) and RF Kyle Tucker (1×3, RBI) led the offense that produced just six hits (five singles) on the day… RHP Brandon Bielak (2ER/4.2IP) made his first start of the season and kept the Astros in the game, working around 10 hits allowed…the bullpen pitched great again, tossing 3.1 scoreless innings, while allowing just one hit and two walks.

LATE ATTACK: The Astros offense has come alive late in games this season, producing 69 runs in the 7th inning or later, which ranks second in the Majors trailing only the Dodgers (73)…the Astros top two innings, in terms of runs scored, this season have been the 7th (26 runs) and the 8th (22 runs). TRAFFIC:LF Yordan Alvarez has opened his season by reaching base safely in all 28 of his games, which is the franchise record for a start-of-season streak, besting three previous 25-game streaks (last, Alex Bregman in 2020)…it is also the the longest streak in the AL this season and the second-longest in the Majors, trailing only a 30-game streak by SS Xander Bogaerts…going back to last season, Alvarez has reached base safely in a career-long 32 straight games.

STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: LF Yordan Alvarez has been at his best in the big moments in his career, especially this season…he’s hitting .500 (11×22) with RISP, .615 (8×13) with RISP and two outs, .800 (4×5) with the bases loaded, and .450 (9×20) in close and late situations…Baseball-Reference has a leverage metric, which lists Alvarez as hitting .588 (10×17) with five homers, 26 RBI and a 2.255 OPS in high leverage situations.

UNDER THE RADAR: RHP Phil Maton and RHP Bryan Abreu have been outstanding in the early going this season…Maton has allowed just six hits and two runs in his first 15 appearances (18 IP) with 19 strikeouts…opponents are just 6×59 (.102) vs. him (RHH are 2×27, LHH are 4×34)…Abreu has tallied 29 strikeouts in his 17.1 IP while allowing just three earned runs for a 1.56 ERA, and also posting a .153 opponent average (9×56).

EARLY RANKINGS: The Astros have three players currently ranking within the top 10 in multiple categories the AL…LF Yordan Alvarez ranks third in RBI (31), ninth in SLG (.539), ninth in OPS (.924) and 10th in on-base percentage (.385)…3B Alex Bregman ranks tied for second in walks (23), while RF Kyle Tucker ranks tied for seventh in walks (20).

THE INJURY BUG: The Astros have been hampered by injuries this season, as the club is currently without two members of their starting lineup (2B Jose Altuve and LF Michael Brantley) and three members of their starting rotation (RHP Luis Garcia, RHP José Urquidy, RHP Lance McCullers Jr.)…good news is on the way, as Brantley could return this series, while Altuve nears a rehab assignment

TONIGHT’S ASTROS STARTER: RHP HUNTER BROWN
LAST START – 5/2 VS. SF: walked a career-high 5 batters and struck out 4 batters through 4.1 IP, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, in a 2-0 loss to the Giants…received the first losing decision of his career after opening with a 5-game winning streak… per Elias, was the first Astros pitcher to win their first 5 decisions since RHP Josh James won his first 7 decisions from 2018-19.

HISTORIC START: his 1.96 career ERA is the lowest in Astros history through a pitcher’s first 13 career appearances ahead of RHP Bo McLaughlin (2.00) and RHP Jared Cosart (2.42) (min. 50 IP)

LEAGUE LEADERBOARD: among AL starters, he ranks 2nd in opponent SLG (.262), 8th in ERA (2.60) and 13th in opponent batting average (.213).

SOLID STREAK: made back-to-back starts from 4/9-4/15 in which he recorded at least 7.0 IP without allowing an ER…the last Astros pitcher to do so was LHP Scott Kazmir, who made 2 such starts in a row in 2015 (7/24/15-7/30/15)

HEY ROOK: Ranks inside the top 10 in many categories among AL rookies…is 1st in ERA (2.60), opponent’s batting average (.213) and WHIP (1.18), T-1st in wins (3) and 2nd in strikeouts (36) and IP (34.2). VS. LAA: will be making his first career appearance against the Angels.

ABOUT BROWN: rookie right-hander entered the season as the top prospect in the Astros system and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball…was ranked as the No. 28 prospect in baseball in Baseball America’s preseason top 100 rankings…was also rated as the No. 8 RHP prospect in MLB Pipeline’s preseason positional prospect rankings.

• selected by the Astros in the 4th round of the 2019 MLB First-Year Player Draft from Wayne State University.

• was a fast-riser through Astros minor league system, reaching Triple A in his first full minor league season following the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season…owns a career 3.40 ERA (87ER/230.0IP) through 59 career minor league appearances (39 starts)…averaged 11.7 strikeouts-per-nine-innings throughout his minor league career…ranked 9th of all minor league pitchers between the ‘21-22 seasons with 11.56 strikeouts-per-nine-innings

LOS ANGELES ANGELS NOTES:

LEADING OFF: Today, the Angels play the fourth (1-2) of six games on a homestand against the Texas Rangers (1-2) and Houston Astros (May 8-10)…Halos went 4-2 on last road trip against the Milwaukee Brewers (1- 2) and St. Louis Cardinals (3-0)…LAA was 5-2 on last homestand against Royals (2-1) and Athletics (3-1).

TODAY’S TRANSACTIONS: Today the Angels selected the contract of RHP César Valdez…In corresponding moves, LHP José Suarez (left shoulder strain) was placed on the 15-day injured list and LHP José Quijada was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

STREAK SNAPPED: Saturday night’s loss snapped Angels season-high five game win streak…Was Halos longest since a seven game streak from Sept. 25 – Oct. 2, 2022…Today Halos are looking to avoid a third straight loss, which would match longest losing streak of season (April 14-16).

PLAY FROM AHEAD: Halos have held leads in 29 of 35 games played this year.

A LOOK AT THE STANDINGS: Angels enter play today in second place in the American League West standings (-2.0 games behind Texas).

VS. HOUSTON: Today is the first of 13 matchups this season between the Angels and Astros…Last season, Astros won season series 13-6, marking second straight year that Houston has won season series.

LEAGUE LEADER: Shohei Ohtani, leads the Majors in opponent batting average (.125), ranks second strikeouts (59) and is sixth in WHIP (0.87).

UNEARNED: Angels have allowed 25 unearned runs this season, which is the most in the Majors…Halos have committed 24 fielding errors this season, which is tied for second-most in the Majors.

ALL OVER THE INFIELD: Gio Urshela is one of six players in the Majors to appear at all four infield positions this season…He has made 11 starts at first base, nine starts at third base, eight at shortstop and one at second base.

WOAH, THAT’S WILD: Friday night, Angels rallied for three runs in the 9th inning to force extra innings and won the game in the 10th when Zach Neto scored on a wild pitch for the walk-off victory…Was Angels first extra-inning win of the year and first walk-off win of 2023…First time Angels won on a walk-off wild pitch since Aug. 5, 2015 vs. Cleveland (run scored by Taylor Featherston).

ON THE BOARD: Halos have not been shut out since Aug. 21, 2022 at Detroit…Current streak of 76 games without being shut out is the longest active streak in the Majors and fifth-longest streak in Angels history.

GOING DEEP: Angels have hit 47 home runs this season, which are tied with Boston for the second-most in the American League…Only Tampa Bay (71) has more.

NET-OW: Zack Neto has been hit by seven pitches this season, which is tied for second-most in the Majors… Since 1901, Neto’s seven HBP through his first 15 career games are the most in MLB…He also was the first player in Angels history to be hit a pitch in four consecutive games (April 18-21).

THE INJURED LIST: Halos have used the injured list 12 total times this year and currently have 10 players on the IL.

‘PEN PALS: This season, Carlos Estévez is pitching to a 1.08 ERA (16.2 IP – 2 ER) and has converted all seven of his save opportunities…Matt Moore owns a 1.10 ERA (16.1 IP – 2 ER) across 15 appearances

SURF AND TURF: Wednesday at Busch Stadium, Mike Trout recorded his fifth career go-ahead home run in the 9th inning-or-later and first since June 18, 2022 (Game 1) at Seattle…Jake Lamb hit his fifth career pinch-hit home run last night and tied the game in the top of the 9th inning; it was the Angels first game-tying pinch-hit HR in the 9th inning-or-later since Dallas McPherson on June 29, 2005 at Texas.

500K: Shohei Ohtani matched his MLB single-game career high with 13 strikeouts in last pitching start Wednesday and finished the night with 500 career MLB strikeouts…Is the 10th Japanese-born pitcher with 500 strikeouts in the Majors…Reached 500 strikeouts in 388.2 IP, which is second fastest as a starting pitcher all-time, behind Corbin Burnes (365 IP). (ELIAS).

TODAY’S STARTING PITCHER – LHP PATRICK SANDOVAL
2-1, 2.93 ERA
Has allowed two-or-fewer earned runs in five of six starts this season

• TODAY’S GAME: Making seventh start of the season and third at home…Is in fifth Major League season with Angels…Made third Opening Day roster (also, 2020 & 2022).

• LAST TIME OUT: Earned the win in last start on Tuesday at St. Louis after tossing 5.0 innings and allowing one earned run on three hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

• IN THE ARSENAL: This season, has thrown sliders 30.8% of the time, with opponents batting .162 (6/37) against the pitch…He throws changeups 28.5% of the time and is holding opponents to a .180 (9/50) average with 11 strikeouts.

• HOME OPENER: Started Angels Home Opener on April 7 vs. Toronto…Tossed 6.0 innings and allowed one earned run…Marked second time starting Angels Home Opener (also, 2020 vs. Seattle).

• VS. HOUSTON: In seven career games (six starts) vs. Houston, is 0-4 with a 8.03 ERA (24.2 IP – 22 ER)…Last
season, was 0-1 with a 5.00 ERA (9 IP – 5 ER) in two starts against the Astros.

• FORMER ASTROS PRODUCT: Originally drafted by Houston in 11th round of 2015 Draft…Traded to Angels on July 26, 2018 in exchange for Martin Maldonado.

• AT ANGEL STADIUM: In 34 career games (30 starts) at The Big A, is 5-13 with a 3.54 ERA (170.1 IP – 67 ER)… This season, is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA (13 IP – 3 ER) in two home starts…Last year, was 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA (70.2 IP – 26 ER) in 13 home starts…Has allowed three-or-fewer runs in 25 of 30 career home starts.

• LEFT IN THE PARK: Has not allowed a home run to a left-handed batter since Aug. 13, 2021 (Kyle Tucker, HOU)…Allowed just eight total home runs last season (all to right-handed batters)…Held opponents homerless through first nine starts of 2022 was the longest streak to begin a season in Angels history and longest overall streak for LAA since John Lackey had a nine game streak in 2005.

• GOOD NIGHT: This year, has a 1.66 ERA (21.2 IP – 4 ER) in night games, compared with a 6.00 ERA (9 IP – 6 ER) in day games….Last season, was 4-4 with a 2.50 ERA (72 IP – 20 ER) with 75 strikeouts in his 13 night starts, compared with a 2-5 record and 3.29 ERA (76.2 IP – 28 ER) in his 14 day games.

• WINNING STREAKS: Loss on April 20 at Yankees snapped streak of three straight winning decisions (dating back to last season), which was longest streak of career…Can match the streak again with a victory in today’s game…A winning decision today would also mark first time in career winning three consecutive starts.

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