Once again, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani continue to do unprecedented things together in the lineup and – for Ohtani – on the mound.
Despite that, the Los Angeles Angels are still just 37-41. And the Halos are still 12 games back in the division and five games back in the Wildcard race.
The team 12 games ahead of the Halos are the Houston Astros, who will suit up at home to play Trout, Ohtani, and Los Angeles.
Who has the edge?
Read on for the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for this Friday’s matchup.
Los Angeles Angels vs Houston Astros Odds
The Astros are unsurprising favorites. But part of me thinks they should be bigger favorites with Cristian Javier on the mound. Javier has pitched well in his first full season in the rotation.
In the meantime, the Angels’ Michael Lorenzen has been nothing special.
Of course, the Angels have won three of the last five games against the Astros this season.
The 8.5 total feels about right, although sharp money is already coming in on the under.
Los Angeles Angels Starting Lineup
M. Lorenzen R
6-5 4.24 ERA
RF T. Ward R
CF M. Trout R
DH S. Ohtani L
3B D. MacKinnon R
1B J. Walsh L
2B L. Rengifo S
C M. Stassi R
LF B. Marsh L
SS A. Velazquez S
Los Angeles Angels vs Cristian Javier
I truly believe in Cristian Javier.
There are some questionable underlying statistics – like a .270 BABIP and a 4.8% HR/FB rate – but his 2.73 xERA is only .02 higher than his actual ERA. He’s got some nasty spin on his stuff, ranking above the 85th percentile in fastball and curveball spin rate.
Javier’s fastball has recorded a whopping -13 Run Value this season while holding batters to a .190 xBA. When you have a primary pitch that can shut down batters like that, you’ll have success, and it’s not just “smoke and mirrors”.
He’s upped his strikeout rate to 31.8%, which translates to about 11.6 K/9, while lowering his walk rate by a full 3%. Things are looking good for the Houston youngster and he is contributing to a talented rotation.
Outside of Trout and Ohtani, the Halos just get absolutely nothing out of their roster. Both superstars have an OPS north of 1.000 this month, and the two have combined for 36 RBIs this season.
In the meanwhile, the Angels as a whole rank third-to-last in OPS (.641) while scoring the third-fewest runs (just 92!!).
That’s pathetic. Anthony Rendon is hurt, to be fair, but what happened to Taylor Ward or Jared Walsh? Where are the Halos’ horses?
Houston Astros Starting Lineup
C. Javier R
5-3 2.73 ERA
2B J. Altuve R
SS J. Pena R
DH Y. Alvarez L
3B A. Bregman R
RF K. Tucker L
1B Y. Gurriel R
LF C. McCormick R
CF J. Meyers R
C M. Maldonado R
Houston Astros vs Michael Lorenzen
The Angels just need arms. Michael Lorenzen is an arm.
How effective of an arm he is – that’s up for debate. He’s almost accumulated 1.0 fWAR through 12 starts this season, and that’s somewhat promising. And while his ERA sits in the mid-4.00s, his xERA is close to 3.50.
But he’s also striking out just 6.8 batters per nine innings while walking almost 3.8. His GB rate is high, but his BABIP could regress slightly closer to .300 (rather than the .270 it’s at).
There are just a lot of question marks surrounding Lorenzen. He doesn’t throw particularly hard and his stuff isn’t all that nasty. He throws a sinker and four-seam combination about half the time and then tries to mix and match three other pitches.
Lorenzen might just be your typical league-average MLB pitcher.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
I’d be scared putting Lorenzen up against Houston. The Astros have the third-highest wRC+ on the season (114) and the third-highest wRC+ over the past month (131). They’re one of the most disciplined teams in the league but still rank in the top-half in barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and avg. exit velocity.
Yordan Alvarez trails only Aaron Judge for the Major League lead in home runs, with 23, and he’s one of just three players with an OPS above 1.000.
Meanwhile, Kyle Tucker leads the team in WAR (3.8) and has posted a 141 OPS+. And Jeremy Pena is having one of the best two-way rookie seasons in recent memory.
The Astros don’t even need Jose Altuve, but his 150 OPS+ and elite defense at second sure do help.
Los Angeles Angels vs Houston Astros Pick & Prediction
My picks: Houston Astros ML (-135 at DraftKings)
This is too big of a mismatch for Houston. They have the advantage in every area of the game and in every area of the field.
Considering that, these odds are too short. I think this line should be closer to around -160.
Therefore, I’d bet the Astros at -150 or better.