Wednesday, May 31, 2023

MLB Preview: Houston Astros (18-18) at Los Angeles Angels (20-17)


TODAY’S GAME: The Astros and Angels will play the rubber game of their three-game series in Anaheim today with a pitching matchup of RHP Cristian Javier opposite RHP Griffin Canning…the Astros have gone 5-2 in Javier’s seven starts this season and are 11-2 in Javier’s last 13 starts dating back to last season.

MR. CRISTIAN: RHP Cristian Javier has rounded into form over his last four outings, posting a 3.04 ERA (8ER/23.2IP), a .186 opponent average, a 0.97 WHIP and an 11.03 strikeouts per 9.0 ratio in those starts…these numbers fall in line with what he did in a stellar 2022 season, in which he posted the lowest opponent batting average in the AL (.170) and also ranked second in K’s per 9.0 (11.74) and fourth in WHIP (0.95) (min. 140 IP)…his 11.74 K’s per 9.0 ratio trailed only RHP Shohei Ohtani (11.87).

ON THE BUMP: The Astros rank second in the Majors in team ERA (3.34), trailing only the Rays (2.97)…their starter’s ERA (3.38) ranks third in the AL, while their bullpen ERA (3.27) ranks sixth in the AL.

LATE ATTACK: The Astros offense has come alive late in games this season, producing 69 runs in the 7th inning or later, which ranks third in the Majors trailing only the Dodgers (75) and D-backs (70)…the Astros top two innings, in terms of runs scored this season, have been the 7th (26 runs) and the 8th (22 runs).

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.

LAST NIGHT’S WIN: The Astros and Angels played a highly contested game last night with Houston topping Los Angeles, 3-1…it was star-studded pitching matchup that did not disappoint between LHP Framber Valdez (1ER/8IP) and RHP Shohei Ohtani (3ER/7IP)…Valdez struck out a season-high 12 hitters while allowing just three hits and no walks in his gem…he was backed by his batterymate C Martín Maldonado, who connected for a two-run, go-ahead homer off Ohtani in the 5th inning.

FRAMTASTIC: LHP Framber Valdez tossed a season-high 8.0 innings last night, moving him into sole possession of the Major League lead in innings pitched (53.0)…he also ranks fifth in the AL in strikeouts (57) and sixth ERA (2.38)…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: 2.69 Framber Valdez: 36 Framber Valdez: 2.98 Dylan Cease: 34 Gerrit Cole: 3.16

8,000: DH David Hensley launched a solo home run in the 5th inning of Friday night’s game off LHP Patrick Sandoval…Hensley’s home run was the 8,000th in Astros franchise history.

THE INJURY BUG: The Astros have been hampered by injuries, as the club is currently without two members of their starting lineup (2B Jose Altuve and LF Michael Brantley) and three members of their rotation (RHP Luis Garcia, RHP José Urquidy, RHP Lance McCullers Jr.)…also, 2B Mauricio Dubón was removed from last night’s game with left hamstring discomfort.

MISSING PIECE: The Astros are playing without, 2B Jose Altuve, who suffered a right thumb fracture while playing in the WBC… Altuve, who’s progressed to taking ground balls and hitting batting practice on the field, has returned to Houston to continue his rehab…in his stead, the Astros have started IF Mauricio Dubón (31g), IF David Hensley (4g) and IF Rylan Bannon (1g) at the keystone, while Dubón (21g), SS Jeremy Peña (9g), OF Chas McCormick (6g) and have shared leadoff duties.

TRAFFIC:LF Yordan Alvarez has opened his season by reaching base safely in all 30 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 longest streak in the AL this season and ties as the longest in the Majors, along with a 30-game streak prodced by SS Xander Bogaerts…going back to last season, Alvarez has reached base safely in a career-long 34 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 .542 (13×24) 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 .632 (12×19) with five homers, 28 RBI and a 2.275 OPS in high leverage situations.

EARLY RANKINGS: LF Yordan Alvarez ranks third in RBI (33), sixth in OPS (.934), eighth in OBP (.392) and ninth in SLG (.541)…3B Alex Bregman ranks tied for third in walks (23), while RF Kyle Tucker ranks tied for 10th in walks (20).

ROADIE: 3B Alex Bregman is off to a strong start on the road this season, hitting three doubles, one triple and three homers, while posting 12 RBI and an .886 OPS in 17 road games this season…he has 15 walks, compared to just five strikeouts in those 17 road games.

GRINDERS: The Astros have four players that have played in every game this season: 1B José Abreu, 3B Alex Bregman, SS Jeremy Peña and RF Kyle Tucker…Peña and Tucker have made every defensive start at their position, while Peña is the only Astro to play every inning at their position this season.

BEHIND THE DISH: Astros catchers Yainer Diaz and Martín Maldonado have combined to catch 10-of-30 attempting base-stealers for 33%, which ranks third in the Majors…the rookie Diaz has six catcher caught stealings on the season, which ranks tied for third in AL behind only OAK Shea Langeliers (9) and BOS Connor Wong (8).

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).

LAST START – 5/5 AT SEA: made his first appearance against the Mariners this season and his first since seeing them in Game 1 of the 2022 ALDS…allowed 3 runs on 3 hits in 7.0 IP, striking out 8 and walking 2 batters…has allowed 2-or-less walks in each of his 7 starts this year.

ABOUT JAVIER: dynamic starter is making his 8th start of the season…the Astros have gone 5-2 in Javier’s 7 starts this season and are 11-2 in Javier’s last 13 starts dating back to last season.

• has rounded into form over his last 4 outings, posting a 3.04 ERA (8ER/23.2IP), a .186 opponent average, a 0.97 WHIP and an 11.03 strikeouts per 9.0 ratio in those starts.

INVISIBALL: has held opponents to a .184 average (226×1230) throughout his MLB career…it’s the lowest opponent’s batting average (min. 325 IP) of any MLB pitcher since entering the league in ‘20…the next-closest players are CLE Triston McKenzie (.196) and MIL Corbin Burnes (.197).

SLIDE PIECE: is averaging a career-best spin rate of 2571 rpm with his slider. VS. LAA: has posted good numbers against the AL West counterpart throughout his 4-year career, recording a 2.59 ERA through 8 career outings (4 starts)…has held Los Angeles to a .179 batting average (20×112) in his career…has kept Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout to a .211 batting average (4×19) with 8 K’s


LEADING OFF: Today, the Angels play the sixth (2-3) and final game on a homestand against the Texas Rangers (1-2) and Houston Astros (1-1; 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).

GRIFF ON THE MOUND: Griffin Canning takes the mound today for his fifth start of the year…He has earned wins in each of his last two starts and is looking to win three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.

GOOD DAY: Angels are 9-5 (.643) this year in day games…The .643 day game winning percentage ranks fifth in the Majors this season…Shohei Ohtani is batting .388 (19/49) with one double, one triple, four home runs, 12 RBI and a Major League leading 1.169 OPS in day games in 2023.

VS. HOUSTON: Today is the third (1-1) of 13 matchups this season between the Angels and Astros…Halos are looking to win a three-game home series vs. Astros for the first time since Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 2016; (LAA had a four game home sweep vs. Houston from Sept. 4-6, 2020)…Last year, Astros won season series 13-6.

LEAGUE LEADER: Shohei Ohtani, leads the Majors in opponent batting average (.143), ranks second in strikeouts (66) and is sixth in WHIP (0.91).

BYE BABE: Last night, Shohei Ohtani recorded seven strikeouts to give him 507 career strikeouts…Ohtani surpassed the career pitching strikeout total for Babe Ruth (according to ELIAS, Ruth had 501 career pitching strikeouts)…Ruth and Ohtani are the only players all-time with 500+ pitching strikeouts and 100+ home runs in a career.

PLAY FROM AHEAD: Halos have held leads in 31 of 37 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).

GOING DEEP: Angels have hit 49 home runs this season, which are second-most in the American League…Only Tampa Bay (75) has more.

UNEARNED: Angels have allowed 25 unearned runs this season, which is the most in the Majors…Halos have committed 27 fielding errors this season, which is tied with San Francisco for the most in the Majors.

ON THE BOARD: Halos have not been shut out since Aug. 21, 2022 at Detroit…Current streak of 78 games without being shut out is the longest active streak in the Majors and fifth-longest streak in Angels history.

RECENT ROSTER MOVES: Yesterday, 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.

GETTIN’ ON: Anthony Rendon ranks fourth in the American League among qualifiers with a .415 on-base percentage this season…He’s reached base safely in 12 of his last 13 games and is batting .348 (16/46) with 11 runs, two doubles, one HR, 10 RBI and 10 walks in that span.

SINGLE HANDED: Gio Urshela has hit 34 singles this year plus three extra-base hits (two doubles & one home run)…Urshela is tied with Toronto’s Bo Bichette for the American League lead in singles in 2023.

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

‘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)… Andrew Wantz has a 0.59 ERA (15.1 IP – 1 ER) in his 10 appearances for the Angels in 2023.

500K: Shohei Ohtani is the 10th Japanese-born pitcher with 500 pitching 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).

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 13 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).

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 tomorrow, 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.

2-0, 5.31 ERA
Looking to earn winning decisions in three consecutive starts for first time in career

• TODAY’S GAME: Making fifth start of the season and third at home…Is in fourth Major League season with Angels.

• STREAKING: Has won each of last two starts and has a career high streak of three straight winning decisions dating back to June 9, 2021…Is looking to win three consecutive starts for first time in career.

• LAST TIME OUT: Earned the win in last start on Thursday at St. Louis after tossing a 5.0 innings and allowing five earned runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.

• HE’S BACK: Made season debut on April 12 vs. Washington; first Major league appearance July 2, 2021… Missed Angels first 11 games of the season on injured list with a left groin strain…Spent entire 2022 season and final two months of 2021 season on IL with a low back stress reaction.

• THAT’S RIGHT: Through four starts this year, has held righties to a .225 average (9/40) compared with a .270 (10/37) opponent average against left-handers…Two of three HR allowed this year have been vs. righthanders.

• GETTING AHEAD: Recorded a first pitch strike on 61.6% (53/86) of his batter faced this season.

• UNFAMILIAR FOES: In his career as a starter, has held opponents to a .206 average (72/349) in opposing batter’s first plate appearances of a game.

• VS. HOUSTON: In four career games vs. Houston, is 0-1 with a 9.22 ERA (13.2 IP – 14 ER)…Today marks first appearance vs. Astros since April 24, 2021 at Minute Maid Park.

• AT ANGEL STADIUM: In 26 career games (24 starts) at Angel Stadium, is 10-5 with a 4.68 ERA (125.0 IP – 65 ER)…This season, is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA (10 IP – 5 ER) following first two starts games at home…As a starter, is 9-4 with a 4.33 ERA (120.2 IP – 58 ER) at home…Has allowed three-or-fewer runs in 18 of 24 home starts (nine are quality starts).

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