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AL West rivals meet tonight as the Houston Astros host Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels. As of this writing, Houston is coming off a Wednesday loss vs. inept Detroit. The Tigers needed just two hits, both home runs, to spark MLB’s largest odds upset since 1999. Oddly enough, in that defeat Astros starter Justin Verlander hurled his 25th career complete game. Normally, a two-run, eleven strikeout, coast-to-coast performance, flanked by World Series contending teammates, guarantees success. But mired in an offensive hole, Houston’s bats again fell short. Subsequently, the Astros are now two games behind New York for the American League’s top record.
Meanwhile, following consecutive defeats, Los Angeles sits 19 games behind Houston in the AL West. Three recent one-run losses against Texas have virtually ended the Angels’ long-shot wildcard bid. Though, especially given Houston’s post-August 11 fumbles, expect a live L.A. offering this weekend.
Houston trots All-Star Zack Greinke to the mound tonight. Los Angeles hasn’t announced its starter, but owns MLB’s 25th rated ERA at 5.04 runs allowed.
The Astros are 4-3 this season vs. Los Angeles, as the clubs split their latest meetings.
Houston Offense Frozen
Houston’s once-potent offense continues backsliding, averaging just four runs during the team’s last six outings. Along that stretch, the Astros went 3-3 against Oakland and Detroit. The former club is seven games shy of Houston’s division-leading margin. Though, it’s completely possible Oakland may catch the Astros if each continues trending in opposite directions.
Those towering blasts from Springer, Altuve, Gurriel and Bregman have disappeared in late August: So have Houston’s routine wins.
Ric Flair! The stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, first pitch wheelin' and dealin' son of a gun. pic.twitter.com/SCg7NijauG
— Houston Astros (@astros) August 22, 2019
While Houston continues to frustrate their excellent pitching, Greinke hopes a little offensive effort will aid his cause tonight. Undefeated since joining the Astros in July, Greinke is enjoying another fine year while posting a 2.84 ERA through 26 starts.
The former Cy Young winner tossed seven innings of one-run ball as Houston downed Oakland 4-1 on August 18.
Though, Friday Greinke’s main test will be muzzling AL home run leader Mike Trout. Trout owns a .400 (6-of-15) average against the future Hall-of-Famer. Those six hits have driven in four runs. Trout is always a few swings from changing any game’s outcome.
Heartache vs. Texas
Three narrow losses in Texas this week cooled Los Angeles’ 4-1 run and again showed baseball’s fickle nature. Hunter Pence drove in the winning run to erase Los Angeles’ hopes after Texas trailed through the middle innings.
The Angels’ bullpen has been a sore spot all season and could present obstacles vs. Houston’s fifth-ranked offense. Yes, even with the Astros recent struggles, and stunning Wednesday loss, they remain threatening -especially opposite a team which does not boast a standout pitcher on its staff.
Pujols ties this thing up again with a 2-RBI single! pic.twitter.com/avfQ8wmGfY
— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) August 22, 2019
For that reason, with no starter announced, I’ll concede below average mound work tonight from Los Angeles. What will likely be a platoon effort should allow three to five runs, at minimum, vs. Houston.
And unless Trout finds a groove, assuming he isn’t intentionally walked throughout, Los Angeles will struggle with Greinke. Offense has eluded Los Angeles in their last two losses against Houston while being outscored 17-4.
- Astros are 40-13 in their last 53 during game 1 of a series.
- Astros are 71-25 in their last 96 home games vs. a team with a losing road record.
- Astros are 50-18 in their last 68 vs. a team with a losing record.
- Angels are 13-27 in their last 40 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
- Angels are 2-5 in their last 7 road games vs. a right-handed starter.
- Angels are 2-5 in their last 7 vs. a team with a winning record.
- Angels are 3-10 in their last 13 road games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Though they’re only a game removed from an embarrassing loss, and have struggled to generate runs of late, I’ll give Houston the benefit tonight for being the more talented group. Greinke should do Greinke things while Los Angeles scrambles to find a suitable pitcher to put against a lineup which can ignite at a moment’s notice. I don’t expect a dominant Astros performance here, but they will be motivated to save face after the Tigers series. My lean goes toward Houston.
Prediction: Houston Astros
Full-Game Total Pick
I’ll buck recent trends and go with the over tonight. The law of averages is bound to catch up and favor MLB’s third-best home team with an offense which offers 5.45 runs. Moreso, Los Angeles (5.06 runs) can hold its own in the run department. Both teams will push an over total within climate-controlled Minute Maid Park.