MLB Picks: Astros vs. Angels Game 2 of 4

Matthew Jordan

Friday, July 4, 2014 7:44 PM UTC

Friday, Jul. 4, 2014 7:44 PM UTC

It's an all lefty affair on the mound in Game 2 of the Astros-Angels series on Friday night as Los Angeles looks to inch a bit closer to Oakland in the AL West. The Halos opened as -167 favorites on MLB odds, with the total at 7.5 runs.

Bullpen Problems Solved For Halos?
Los Angeles might be in first in the AL West instead of 3.5 games behind Oakland entering Thursday if not for the bullpen. The offense is Top 5 in the majors and the rotation has been pretty solid, ranking No. 11 in ERA. However, the bullpen ERA of 4.26 ranks 25th and the Angels have blown a whopping 12 saves already.

The team may or may not have solved the problem with the trade of former closer Ernesto Frieri to Pittsburgh for the Pirates' struggling former closer Jason Grilli, as well as moving Joe Smith into that closing role. Frieri had been 11-for-14 in save chances with a 4.97 ERA  before the deal. Smith has been terrific. He saved both ends of a doubleheader Tuesday at the White Sox and hasn't allowed a run in his past five outings entering Thursday. Overall he is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA and nine saves.

It's still likely the Angels make a deal for a situational lefty reliever, at a minimum, after losing southpaw Sean Burnett back in May to season-ending elbow surgery after he had pitched in just three games. The Angels have not had a left-hander in their bullpen for most of this season but acquired veteran lefty Rich Hill this week from Boston. Hill has held left-handers to a .215 mark during a nine-year career so perhaps he's the answer. However, he also  had a 6.28 ERA in 63 appearances last year for Cleveland.

There has been talk the Angels still aren't done in the bullpen, reportedly targeting the likes of closers Jonathan Papelbon (Phillies) and Huston Street (Padres). The Angels don't have much of a farm system to deal prospects, but it wouldn't cost much more than money to get one of those two guys, especially Papelbon, whom the Phillies would love to get rid of.

Probable Pitchers
This could be a very important start for Los Angeles lefty C.J. Wilson (8-6, 3.90). He was projected as the team's No. 2 behind Jered Weaver and Wilson pitched like it the first two months of the season when he was 6-4 with a 3.05 ERA. However, in June he was 2-2 with a 5.97 ERA. Wilson had two good starts where he went at least seven innings and allowed just a run but then the other four he allowed at least four runs and didn't make it longer than six innings. That includes his past two. On June 24 at home against Minnesota, he allowed season highs in runs (six) and hits (nine) in just five innings, although Wilson managed to get a win. He lasted only 3.2 innings on June 29 at Kansas City, allowing four runs on seven hits and walking four in 3.2 innings.

Wilson has had two very different outings against Houston in 2014. On April 7 in Houston, he held the Astros to a run and four hits over eight innings in a win. On June 3, also at Minute Maid Park, he was rocked for five runs and six hits, walking five, in 2.2 innings of a loss. Astros star Jose Altuve is 4-for-18 career off Wilson with a homer. Chris Carter is 6-for-20 with a home run and three knocked in but also eight strikeouts. Wilson has been great at home this year, going 6-1 with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts. The 'under' has hit in four of his past six in Anaheim. Lefties are hitting only .189 off Wilson this season overall.

Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel had his last start skipped as he was dealing with a bit of inflammation in his left wrist, but he's good to go. Keuchel looks like  a long-term piece of the franchise at age 26 and with an 8-5 record and 2.78 ERA. He wasn't great in his final two starts before missing one, allowing a combined nine runs and 15 hits over 13 innings in losses at Tampa Bay and Washington. It's the first time all season the Astros have lost back-to-back Keuchel starts.

Keuchel is 6-2 with a 2.35 ERA in eight road starts this year. He is 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA in two starts against the Angels in 2014. The win came in Anaheim on May 19, when Keuchel shut out the Angels for eight innings. Manager Bo Porter was going to let him try for the complete-game shutout but pulled Keuchel when he allowed two-out singles in the bottom of the ninth to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Both would score off reliever Josh Zeid, with obviously the two runs charged to Keuchel. Pujols is 3-for-7 with a double career off Keuchel. Trout is 4-for-14, all singles, with five strikeouts. David Freese is 4-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs.

MLB free picks: Angels -167 on MLB odds and over 7.5 runs at -115. The Astros are 1-6 in Keuchel's past seven starts in Game 2 of a series. L.A. is 5-0 in Wilson's past five at home against teams with a losing record. The 'over' is 4-1 in Keuchel's past five Friday starts. The 'over' is 4-1 in Wilson's past five against Houston. 

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