Terrific Trio Back
Los Angeles has one of the best offenses in baseball thanks to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, and just think what it could be now with the return of Hamilton. He looked back to his Texas Rangers MVP days, albeit in a short sample, early this season. Hamilton hit .444 with two home runs and six RBIs in eight games before tearing a ligament in his left thumb while sliding head-first into first base -- why do people keep sliding into first base??!! The Halos have badly missed their cleanup hitter. They have been using the likes of Raul Ibanez, David Freese and Howie Kendrick there and Angels cleanup batters rank 11th in the AL in average (.214), eighth in on-base percentage (.327), 12th in slugging (.348), 11th in homer (five) and 10th in RBIs (25) entering this week, according to the L.A. Times. Ibanez has been so bad that he could be released now that Hamilton is back. Hamilton's protection should benefit Pujols, who cooled off in May and is struggling with runners in scoring position.
The Angels didn't have Trout on Saturday or Sunday due to back stiffness but he was also to return on Tuesday. Bovada unveiled updated AL MVP odds this week and Trout is the 8/5 favorite on MLB odds ahead of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (7/2) and Oakland's Josh Donaldson (5/1).
Meanwhile, the re-birth of the Astros is underway and the team is starting to reap the fruits of the majors' top-ranked farm system. Outfielder George Springer looks like the NL Rookie of the Year favorite. He has 10 home runs and 29 RBIs entering Tuesday in only 41 games. The team also debuted another of its jewels of the system, first baseman Jon Singleton, on Tuesday. He was hitting.267 with 14 home runs and a .544 slugging percentage in 54 games at Triple-A this year. Singleton already has agreed to a long-term deal to buy out some of his free-agent years (something Springer turned down). Singleton should easily upgrade first base for Houston as its first basemen were hitting .181 this year. If there is a concern about Singleton it's that he has already failed two drug tests and was suspended 50 games last year. Houston, which has the top pick again in Thursday's first round of the draft, really could be something in 2016.
Los Angeles starts right-hander Garrett Richards, who had been a very pleasant surprise this season. However, Richards (4-2, 3.65) was brought back to earth very harshly last time out, lasting just two-thirds of an inning and allowing five runs in a loss at Oakland. Richards faced 10 batters and eight of them reached, including giving up a grand slam to Brandon Moss. Otherwise Richards has been very good on the road in 2014, going 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA in seven starts. He has made two starts against the Astros this year. In his season debut in Houston, Richards allowed a run and three hits over five innings. L.A. was a -164 favorite on MLB odds for that game. On May 19 in Anaheim, Richards was tagged for five runs and 10 hits over seven innings in a loss. The Angels were -190 on sportsbooks for that one. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve is 4-for-11 with three walks in his career off Richards. Springer has a single in three at-bats off him. Chris Carter is 6-for-13 with a home run and four knocked in.
The Astros counter with right-hander Jarred Cosart (4-4, 4.18). He has allowed three earned runs or less in seven straight starts. Houston is 3-4 in those seven. He pitched against the Angels at home on April 7 and allowed five runs and walked four in six innings of a 9-1 loss. Cosart is 2-1 with a 4.09 ERA in four home starts this year. Trout is 0-for-2 with a walk off him. Kole Calhoun has a solo homer in two at-bats. Hamilton is 0-for-2 with two walks.
MLB Free Picks: Angels -132 on MLB odds and 'under' 8.5 runs on MLB odds. L.A. is 5-1 in Richards' past six starts against teams with a losing record. Houston is 1-4 in Cosart's past five against teams with a winning record. The 'under' has hit in six of Richards' past eight starts. It has hit in five of Cosart's past six against teams with a winning record.