A big series in the American League West begins on Friday in Anaheim as the division-leading Astros face the wild card hopeful Angels. Houston is a -123 opening favorite on BetOnline's MLB odds for the opener with a total of 7.
What You Need To Know
It's not impossible that the Angels (70-69) can still win the division, but with only three weeks or so left in the season it looks unlikely. They are 5.5 games behind Houston (76-64) in the AL West -- both teams were off Thursday. FanGraphs gives Los Angeles just a 2.6 percent of taking the division and the Astros a 68.8 percent shot. So realistically, it's AL Wild Card or bust for the Halos to return to the playoffs. They were 3.5 games behind Texas for that second spot entering Thursday. The Minnesota Twins are 2 games ahead of the Angels.
FanGraphs gives the Angels an 11.1 percent chance of getting a wild card spot. The good news is the Halos still have four games left against the Twins, from Sept. 17-20 in the Twin Cities, and close the season with four games at Texas. So they might be able to control their own fate.
Arguably the two most exciting players in baseball will be on display in this one. Of course the Angels have reigning AL MVP Mike Trout, who is still only 24 and in contention to win the award again, although I wouldn't say that's likely. Houston has 20-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa, the former No 1 overall prospect in the game and the likely AL Rookie of the Year. He is going to be a superstar. On Monday, Correa became only the second Astro in franchise history to reach 17 homers and 50 RBIs by his 75th game in the majors. The other was George Springer in 2014.
Houston leads 8-5 -- the teams will play three final regular-season games against one another at Minute Maid Park from Sept. 21-23. The Astros and Angels have faced off just once since the All-Star break with Houston sweeping three at home in late July.
Trout is hitting just .205 against Houston pitching this season (8-for-39) but does have four homers and seven RBIs. Albert Pujols is 10-for-50 vs. the Astros with four homers and six knocked in. Erick Aybar leads the Angels regulars with a .314 average against Houston. For the Astros, Correa has played in only six games against the Angels this year and is 9-for-26 with two home runs and six RBIs. Jose Altuve is 17-for-51 with a homer, nine RBIs and six runs scored. Luis Valbuena is 11-for-41 with three homers, six RBIs and nine runs scored. Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis and Chris Carter are all hitting .171 or worse against Halos pitching.
It's AL Cy Young favorite Dallas Keuchel (17-6, 2.29) for Houston. The lefty will go on regular rest. Rookie Lance McCullers, who pitched a day ahead of Keuchel in their previous turns in the rotation, will follow Keuchel on Saturday a week after his last start. Keuchel beat Minnesota last time out, allowing three earned and five hits over eight innings. It was the 19th time Keuchel has gone at least seven innings, and he has yet to throw fewer than six innings in any of his 27 starts in 2015. Houston has won his past five outings. Keuchel is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts this year against the Angels. They are hitting .213 off him with one homer and 14 strikeouts in 12.2 innings. Houston is 5-0 on MLB odds in Keuchel's past five series openers.
Career-wise, Trout is 8-for-26 off Keuchel with a solo homer and nine strikeouts. Pujols is 5-for-19 with a homer and five punchouts. David Freese hits him well, going 8-for-16 with a homer and six RBIs. Aybar hits .231 off him and Kole Calhoun just .167.
Los Angeles starts right-hander Jered Weaver (6-10, 4.78). He took a no-decision in his last start despite allowing just one run and four hits over six innings vs. Texas. He was bombed the start before that in Cleveland. Weaver is 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts in 2015 vs. Houston. The Astros are hitting .211 off him with one homer and nine strikeouts in 15.0 innings. The Angels are 6-1 at sportsbooks like BetOnline in Weaver's past seven following a quality start in his last appearance.
Altuve is 7-for-23 career off Weaver without an extra-base hit. Jed Lowrie is 6-for-25 with three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs. Carter is 4-for-20 with seven strikeouts. Gattis is 2-for-7 with a double.
Weaver has a 2.86 ERA at home so I'm going with Los Angeles here. L.A. is 7-1 in its past eight following an off day. Houston is 2-6 in Keuchel's past eight on the road. Definitely 'under' the total with your MLB picks. The 'under' is 4-0-1 in Weaver's past five vs. Houston. The 'under' is 7-3 in Keuchel's past 10 vs. teams with a winning record.
MLB Picks: Angels +121 & 'under' 7 (+100) at 5Dimes