By: Nate McMullen
Houston opened their series against the Angels with a back-and-forth victory and followed it up with a convincing 5-2 win. Now they go for their fourth consecutive W after catching the Yankees for the AL’s best record. Every game counts, and this Sunday afternoon AL West matchup is no exception.
Moneyline: LAA +185, HOU -210
Runline: LAA +1.5 (-105), HOU -1.5 (-105)
O/U: 10.5 (O +100, U -110)
First Pitch: 1:10 PM CST, Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX
Los Angeles Angels: A cursory glance at the Angels’ lineup gives no indication that Los Angeles is beyond redemption in the playoff race. Facing a stretch of David Fletcher, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Andrelton Simmons, and Mike Trout would give any pitcher the shivers. The Angels accordingly rank in the better half of the league in runs, average, OBP, and slugging, although they aren’t as elite as one might expect. It’s the pitching that has skewed them to the wrong side of .500; their 5.24 starter ERA puts the Angels at an immediate disadvantage, and things don’t seem to be improving. With the loss of Griffin Canning to injury, Los Angeles is in a severe starter shortage.
23-year-old Jaime Barria (4-6, 6.35 ERA) has been a hybrid starter/long reliever in 2019, making eight starts in 13 appearances. His ERA tells a sorry tale, as does a deeper look at his performances; Barria has yet to pitch more than five innings and has yielded at least one earned run in each of his outings. Things get no easier against one of the toughest lineups in the majors.
Houston Astros: The Astros long ago distinguished themselves as a premier American League team, capable of finishing strong and winning their second World Series in three years. The addition of Zack Greinke truly pushed them over the edge, as he squads up with Justin Verlander (2.77 ERA), Gerrit Cole (2.75), and Wade Miley (3.18), all of whom have double-digit starts and at least 12 wins. Since joining the ‘Stros, Greinke is 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA in four starts. Coupled with a lineup that has scored the fifth most runs in the majors, Houston is trouble.
Starter Framber Valdez (3-6, 5.58 ERA) toes the rubber after getting called up from Triple-A Round Rock. In five starts in the bigs this year, he’s put up an 8.10 ERA en route to a 1-3 record. L.A. doesn’t hit lefties particularly well—.242 average—so Valdez has a chance to show his big-league staying power against a solid offense during a Sunday matinee.
Analysis and Prediction: I’m not going to complicate things. Houston is 6-4 in its last 10 games, including three straight wins, while L.A. has lost four straight. Houston has scored 31 runs in the last week, and Barria should be no barrier to their prolific offense. Even if Valdez gives up some runs, expect the Houston offense to stay hot and boost the team to yet another win. Pick the ‘Stros to stay hot.