Aug. 23 MLB Preview — Los Angeles Angels (63-67) at Houston Astros (82-47)

(George Springer photo courtesy Erik Williams/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Friday, Aug. 23, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas, 8:10 p.m. EDT.

Having achieved a career milestone victory in rapid fashion, Zack Greinke looks to make it four wins in as many starts for the Houston Astros on Friday night when they begin a three-game series versus the Los Angeles Angels.

Halos likely to recall Suarez after shutting down Canning for remainder of season

Griffin Canning (5-6, 4.58 ERA) would have been starting in this game, but an MRI taken Thursday morning revealed inflammation in his throwing elbow, and the Angels (63-67) opted to shut down the rookie right-hander for the rest of the season.

The Angels have not officially named a replacement for the right-hander, but fellow rookie Jose Suarez (2-4, 6.75) is expected to again shuttle from Triple-A Salt Lake to make this start after being optioned following his last appearance Saturday.

The left-hander was a bulk reliever for the first time Saturday when facing the Chicago White Sox, yielding four runs and six hits in four innings. The Angels, in fact, got him off the hook for a loss by rallying for four seventh-inning runs in a 6-5 victory.

Suarez has recorded both his victories on the road, where he is 2-1 in six starts despite a 6.59 ERA. He did not pitch all that poorly in his lone matchup with the Astros in Houston on July 7, giving up two runs and five hits over 3 1-3 innings in Los Angeles’ 11-10, 10-inning defeat.

Mike Trout, who has already set a career high with 42 homers and is two RBIs shy of his third season with at least 100, went 4 for 11 with three homers in the Angels’ previous visit to Houston last month. Trout, though, is a lifetime .227 hitter with 11 home runs in 32 career games at Minute Maid Park.

Greinke settling into groove with Astros

After initial jitters in his initial start following his acquisition from Arizona, Greinke (3-0, 2.37) has settled into the pitcher the Astros were expecting to have in their bid for a second World Series title in three years.

Greinke notched his 200th victory Sunday in Oakland, allowing a solo homer and three other hits in seven innings in helping record a 4-1 victory that prevented an Athletics sweep and kept them at arm’s length in the AL West.

“I wouldn’t say there’s many pitchers who would say [wins] are the No. 1 most important stat for them, but if you and the team are winning, it’s the most important,” Greinke told the club’s official website after joining teammate Justin Verlander and New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia as the only active 200-game winners. “It doesn’t necessarily say you’re pitching the best, but it’s the most important.”

Greinke, who was acquired by the Angels in a 2012 deadline deal from Milwaukee and went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA in 13 starts, beat them in an interleague matchup last year on the road as he gave up three runs — two on solo homers — in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 victory.

The 35-year-old has won three straight starts against Los Angeles and is 4-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 12 career starts. Greinke is 2-1 with a 2.54 ERA in four lifetime outings in Anaheim.

While Trout has not taken him deep, he is 6 for 15 with two triples and a double. Justin Upton has also teed off on the right hander, belting three home runs while going 11 for 31.

Albert Pujols, who is eight hits behind Cal Ripken Jr. (3,174) for 14th all-time and eight homers behind Willie Mays (660) for fifth, is 11 for 32 with a homer and six doubles.

Notable Trends

The Astros are:

  • 40-13 in their last 53 during game 1 of a series.
  • 16-5 in their last 21 home games vs. left-handed starters.
  • 37-14 in their last 51 games vs. starters with a plus-1.30 WHIP.

The Angels are:

  • 1-7 in their last eight during game 1 of a series.
  • 3-10 in their last 13 road games.
  • 0-4 in Suarez’s last four starts.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Astros -1.5 runs (-136)

The expectation is the kerfuffle surrounding Justin Verlander and Detroit Free Press reporter Anthony Fenech will dissipate after either Verlander or the Astros are fined for barring him entry into the locker room.

If anything, it will allow Greinke to just go about his business, which is how he has always preferred to operate. The Astros have been bullies in their division, going 38-13 in their last 51 against AL West teams and bullies on the lesser teams, racking up a 50-18 record in their last 68 against sub-.500 opponents.

With Suarez getting a spot start but on schedule, it is not a worst-case scenario for the Angels after shutting down Canning, but the gap between the rookie lefty and Greinke is sizable enough the run line should hit easily.

There was consideration to using a 2.5 alternate run line, but with Houston beating AL West opponents by three or more runs in nine of its 22 home games, there was not enough confidence.

****4-Star Picks****

Astros -1.5 runs first 5 innings (Even)

This is where the alternate line via is a better play than the standard laying the half-run on the Astros at -171. The Angels are 0-5-1 at the five-inning mark in Suarez’s last six starts and have trailed by two or more runs in the last four.

Greinke has led by two or more runs in two of his three starts with Houston, including his home debut versus Colorado on Aug. 6. He was pitched Arizona to a 7-1-2 mark in his 10 starts before being acquired by the Astros and had two-run leads or better four times.

Los Angeles has yielded four or more runs in the first five innings in nine of its last 13 road games and five of Suarez’s last seven starts. This is a moderately aggressive play for a much better reward.

OVER 5 runs first 5 innings (-121)

The five-inning over is a healthy 7-1-1 in the season series and hit in Suarez’s last three starts despite being 5.5 or higher. It also comfortably covered in his previous matchup with the Astros. This is an anti-confidence pick in Suarez along with hoping Greinke yields a run or two to see the over through.

***3-Star Picks***

OVER 9 runs (-121)

This pick is being flipped to the over after losing the hook on the low side. The over has trended head-to-head, going 3-1-2 in the last six in Houston and 7-3-2 in the last 12 overall.

Suarez, though, is the swing vote in making the flip. The over is 5-0-1 in his last six road starts and a healthy 9-1-1 in his last 11. The over is 9-2 in Los Angeles’ last 11 contests overall and on a six-game run when the Angels face right-handers. And finally, the over is 5-1 in their last six series openers and 6-1 in the last seven coming off a loss.

Astros OVER 5.5 runs (-115)

The Astros have scored six or more runs in six of their nine games versus the Angels this year and in six of their last nine at home. And it is hard to get a more favorable matchup than facing a rookie in Suarez with opponents batting .310 and posting a .991 OPS.

Suarez was already part of one slugfest at Minute Maid Park this year, and while that may not happen again facing Greinke, the belief is the Astros will knock him around again.

Astros OVER 3 runs first 5 innings (-110)

The Astros have scored three or more runs in the first five innings in six of their nine games versus the Angels and also done so in eight of their last 10 home games facing AL West opponents.

Los Angeles has yielded three or more runs in eight of Suarez’s last nine starts, which makes this a solid play.


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