Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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MLB Preview: Houston Astros (17-18) at Los Angeles Angels (20-16)


TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros and Angels will play the middle game of their three-game series in Anaheim tonight with a pitching matchup of LHP Framber Valdez opposite the 2021 AL MVP RHP Shohei Ohtani…Valdez has been consistent for the Astros as he’s tossed six consecutive quality starts dating back April 4 vs. DET.

FRAMTASTIC: LHP Framber Valdez enters tonight with 45.0 innings pitched on the season, which ranks fifth in the AL… Valdez has been one of the best pitchers in the AL over the last three-plus seasons (2020-23) as he ranks in the top three in the AL over that timespan in wins and ERA. AL Wins Leaders (2020-23) AL ERA Leaders (2020-23) Gerrit Cole: 41 Shane Bieber: 2.72 Framber Valdez: 35 Framber Valdez: 3.01 Dylan Cease: 34 Gerrit Cole: 3.16

ON THE BUMP: The Astros rank third in the AL in team ERA (3.41), trailing the Rays (2.93) and Twins (3.33)…their starter’s ERA (3.48) ranks third in the AL, while their bullpen ranks sixth in the AL (3.30).

VS. THE ANGELS: The Astros went 13-6 against the Angels in 2021 and 2022 and own an all-time 112-76 record vs. LAA… the Astros have won five straight series in Anaheim.

YESTERDAY’S ROSTER MOVE: The Astros 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.

LAST NIGHT’S GAME: The Astros lost the first game of their three-game series in Anaheim last night by a score of 6-4…DH Alex Bregman (2×4, RBI, 3B), LF Yordan Alvarez (2×4, RBI, 2B) and 3B David Hensley (1×3, HR) contributed offensively for the Astros…RHP Hunter Brown allowed four runs on nine hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 4.1 innings.

LATE ATTACK: The Astros offense has come alive late in games this season, producing 69 runs in the 7th inning or later, which ranks tied for second in the Majors trailing only the Dodgers (75)…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 29 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 33 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 .522 (12×23) with RISP, .643 (9×14) with RISP and two outs, .800 (4×5) with the bases loaded, and .429 (9×21) in close and late situations…Baseball-Reference has a leverage metric, which lists Alvarez as hitting .622 (11×18) with five homers, 27 RBI and a 2.293 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 (32), seventh in OPS (.936) ninth in SLG (.547), and ninth in on-base percentage (.389)…3B Alex Bregman ranks tied for second in walks (23), while RF Kyle Tucker ranks tied for ninth 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.

8,000: DH David Hensley launched a solo home run in the fifth inning of last night’s game off LAA LHP Patrick Sandoval… Hensley’s home run was the 8,000th in Astros franchise history.

CAUGHT STEALING: Astros catcher Yainer Diaz caught LAA Taylor Ward stealing in the first inning of last night’s game… recording his sixth catcher caught stealing on the season, which ranks tied for third in AL behind only OAK Shea Langeliers (8) and BOS Connor Wong (8).

LAST START – 5/2 VS. SF: logged his 6th consecutive quality start, tossing 6.0 IP and striking out 8 batters while allowing 5 hits, 2 runs and 2 walks in a 4-2 loss to the Giants…was the second time in his last 3 starts that he struck out at least 8 batters.

LEAGUE LEADERBOARD: in AL, is 5th in innings (45.0) and 8th in ERA (2.60)…is T-1st in AL with 6 quality starts…since 2019, is tied with RHP Gerrit Cole for the most quality starts of AL pitchers (45).

REVERSE, REVERSE: has posted reverse splits to open his ‘23 campaign, holding right-handed hitters to a .231 batting average (33×143) while lefties are batting .360 (9×25)…traditionally, has been extremely tough on left-handed hitters, holding them to a .213 average (87×408) and a .620 OPS throughout his career, allowing just seven homers.

VS. THE ANGELS: set to make his 16th career appearance and 12th start against the Angels, which are the most against any opponent in his career…has gone 7-4 with a 3.98 ERA (36ER/81.1IP), holding them to a .349 slugging percentage…Astros have gone 11-4 in Valdez’s appearances against the Angels…has held OF Mike Trout and OF/RHP Shohei Ohtani to a combined .132 batting average (5×38) in his career…Ohtani’s 32 plate appearances entering tonight are the most of any player vs. Valdez.

STAYING GROUNDED: among AL starters this year, ranks 1st in groundball percentage (66.7)

• owns a career 66.6% groundball percentage, which ranks as the lowest percentage in the Majors since 2018 (min. 300 IP)…CHC RHP Marcus Stroman is the next-closest over that span at 57.5 %…since ground ball percentage started being tracked in 1987, Valdez career ground ball percentage is the highest ever posted by a starting pitcher (min. 250 IP).

ABOUT VALDEZ: the 2022 All-Star is pitching in his 6th Major League season (2018-23) and his fourth as a staple in the Astros rotation.

• has been one of the AL’s most prolific starters since 2020, ranking 2nd in the AL in opponent OPS (.625), ERA (3.01) and wins (35), 5th in opponent’s batting avg (.227), and innings (451.2) and 7th in pitcher’s WAR (4.8) and strikeouts (440) in that timespan.

OPENING DAY STARTER: made his 2nd consecutive (and career) Opening Day start…is the first Astros pitcher to make back-to-back Opening Day starts since Justin Verlander (2018-21)

• was the second Dominican-born pitcher to start Opening Day for the Astros, joining Wandy Rodriguez in 2012…was one of three Dominican-born pitchers to get Opening Day nod in ‘23, joining Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara and Mariners RHP Luis Castillo.

• was the third LHP in Astros history to make back-to-back Opening Days, joining Dallas Keuchel (2015-17) and Dave Roberts (1973-74).

• became the first Dominican-born pitcher in Astros history to pick up a winning decision on Opening Day in ‘22…tossed 6.2 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and striking out 6 batters to 1 walk, in a 3-1 win at LAA.

WITH THE ‘STROS: signed by the Astros as a 21-year-old international free agent from the Dominican Republic on March 18, 2015.

• the left-hander has gone 43-27 with a 3.31 ERA (206ER/559.1IP) and 542 strikeouts in 105 games (83 starts) in the Majors with Houston from 2018-23.

• for his career in the postseason, he’s recorded a 3.41 ERA (26 ER/68.2 IP) in 12 career games (12 GS)…since ‘20 leads all MLB pitchers in postseason wins (7), strikeouts (75), IP (68.2) and quality starts (7).


LEADING OFF: Today, the Angels play the fifth (2-2) of six games on a homestand against the Texas Rangers (1-2) and Houston Astros (1-0; 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 C Chris Okey and recalled RHP Jimmy Herget from Triple-A Salt Lake…In corresponding moves, C Chad Wallach was placed on the 7-day injured list and RHP César Valdez was designated for assignment.

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

WINS AND LOSSES: Last night’s win snapped two game losing streak…With a win today, Angels would match season high at five games over .500 (reached high water mark on Friday with a 19-14 record).

PLAY FROM AHEAD: Halos have held leads in 30 of 36 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 second (1-0) of 13 matchups this season between the Angels and Astros…Last year, Astros won season series 13-6, marking second straight year that Houston has won season series.

UNEARNED: Angels have allowed 25 unearned runs this season, which is the most in the Majors…Halos have committed 26 fielding errors this season, which is tied with San Francisco for the 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 12 starts at first base, nine starts at third base, eight at shortstop and one at second base.

THE INJURED LIST: Halos have used the injured list 13 total times this year and currently have 11 players on the IL.

‘PEN PALS: This season, Carlos Estévez is pitching to a 1.02 ERA (17.2 IP – 2 ER) and has converted all eight of his save opportunities…Matt Moore owns a 1.00 ERA (18 IP – 2 ER) across 16 total appearances and is unscored upon in his last eight games (9.0 IP).

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).

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 77 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 48 home runs this season, which are second-most in the American League…Only Tampa Bay (73) 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).

GUARDIANS ON DECK: Following the current series vs. Houston and an off day on Thursday, the Angels will open their next road trip with a three game series at Cleveland…Last year, Halos won the season series vs. Guardians 4-3, with each team sweeping their home series…The home team has won 10 straight meetings, dating back to 2021…Angels lead all-time series 333-331.

4-0, 2.54 ERA
Matched career high with 13 strikeouts in last start Wednesday at St. Louis

• SHO TIME: Making eighth pitching start of the year and fourth at home…Is in sixth Major League season with LAA.

• LEAGUE LEADER: Enters today’s start leading the Majors in opponent batting average (.125), ranks third in strikeouts (59), and is fifth in WHIP (0.87).

• LAST TIME ON THE MOUND: Did not factor in decision in last start on Wednesday at St. Louis after tossing 5.0 innings and allowing four earned runs on five hits with one walk and 13 strikeouts…The 13 strikeouts matched his career high and gave him 500 total MLB strikeouts for career…Fourth game in MLB history where a pitcher recorded 13+ strikeouts in 5.0-or-fewer innings (also, Jacob deGrom in 2022, Alex Cobb in 2013 and Zack Greinke in 2012).

• APPROACHING THE BABE: Is one strikeout shy of matching the career total for Babe Ruth (according to ELIAS, Ruth had 501 career pitching strikeouts)…Ruth and Ohtani are the only players with 500+ pitching strikeouts and 100+ home runs in a career.

• 10 K: Has three starts this season with 10+ strikeouts (tied with Kevin Gausman and Zac Gallen for most in Majors)… Recorded 10+ strikeouts in 10 starts last season, which was the most such games in the A.L.; joined Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers in franchise history with 10+ strikeouts in at least six consecutive games.

• UNFAMILIAR: This season, is holding opponents to an .077 (4/52) average the first time through the order, a .268 (11/41) average the second time through the order and an .029 (1/35) average the third time through.

• VS. HOUSTON: In 10 career starts vs. Houston, is 3-3 with a 3.47 ERA (49.1 IP – 19 ER) and 68 strikeouts…Last season, was 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA (29.2 IP – 4 ER) and 45 strikeouts in five starts vs. Astros; carried a perfect game into 6th inning of start vs. Houston on April 20 at Minute Maid Park…Was one of two pitchers with three wins against Astros last year, (also Cole Irvin).

• AT ANGEL STADIUM: In 36 career starts at The Big A, is 18-5 with a 2.04 ERA (216 IP – 49 ER) and 277 strikeouts… This season, is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA (20 IP – 5 ER) and 25 strikeouts after three starts…In 14 starts last season, was 7-4 with a 1.82 ERA (89 IP – 18 ER)…In 2021, went 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA (78.1 IP – 17 ER) and 93 strikeouts after 13 home starts.

• HOME SWEET HOME: Has a career 2.04 ERA (216 IP – 49 ER) in home games, which is the second lowest total of the last 100 years (min. 30 GS)…Only Miami’s José Fernández (1.49 ERA; 272.1 IP – 45 ER) has a lower home ERA.

• OFF THE BOARDS: Had franchise record streak of 12 straight pitching starts allowing two-or-fewer runs snapped on April 27 vs. Oakland (Nolan Ryan had previous record with nine game streak across the 1972-73 seasons)… Overall, has yielded two-or-fewer runs in 21 of last 26 starts and one-or-fewer runs in 18 of last 26 starts.

• CAN’T HIT THIS: Had streak of 10 straight pitching starts allowing three-or-fewer hits from Sept. 17, 2022 – April 27, 2023…The streak was snapped in last start at St. Louis and finished tied with Jacob deGrom (10 game streak for Mets in 2021) for the longest streak all-time (excluding Openers).

• SCORELESS AT THE BIG A: Had streak of 35.0 consecutive scoreless innings pitched at Angel Stadium snapped in last home start…Finished as second longest streak in ballpark history, behind a 36.2 IP streak by Mark Clear in 1979.

• OPENING DAY STARTER: Was Angels Opening Day starter for second consecutive season…Also made two Opening Day pitching starts in Japan for Nippon-Ham Fighters…Became first Angels pitcher to start consecutive Opening Days since Jered Weaver (2010-15)…Became fourth pitcher in Angels history with 10+ strikeouts on Opening Day, joining Nolan Ryan (12 SO; 1973 & 1975), Andy Messersmith (11 SO; 1970) and Jered Weaver (10 SO; 2012).

• ONE AND ONLY: Last season, became only player to ever qualify for the league leaders as both a hitter and a pitcher in one season…Was the first A.L/N.L. player since Babe Ruth (1918) with 10+ wins and 10+ HR in the same season and the only player in MLB history with 10+ wins & 30 + HR.

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