10:00 PM EST, ESPN – Money Line: Houston -123, Run Line: 7.5
Division rivals traveling in very opposite directions meet tonight in Anaheim, as the struggling Los Angeles Angels host the surging Houston Astros in the first entry of a three-game series. Winners of nine out of their last ten outings, Houston (39-36, 2nd in AL West) have been one of the hottest teams in the American League over the past few weeks, even with their 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals on Sunday aside. All in all, it was a very one-sided affair against the reigning World Series Champions, as the visitors could manage just one run on four hits, with thirteen of their number suffering a Strikeout. The Royals’ Ian Kennedy proved to be a riddle that Houston simply couldn’t solve, as the host’s ace struck out eleven all on his own through seven innings of work. On the flipside, it was a rather rough day for Doug Fister (8-4, 3.36 ERA), who over the course of 6.2 innings, was tagged for four Earned Runs on eight Hits, including a trifecta of Home Runs. Taking the mound tonight for A.J. Hinch’s side is Collin McHugh (5-5, 4.70 ERA), who continues to search for his first victory since May 30th. The 29-year old Righthander has been solid though, as the Astros have won in five out of his past six starts. Ironically, his last start came against the Angels back on June 21st, in which the fifth-year veteran posted his second consecutive Quality Start, going seven strong innings, permitting two runs on five hits, while striking out six and walking just one. However, he failed to factor into the decision for the second straight start. With that said, Los Angeles made him work for everything he earned, as his 111 pitches represented his second-highest total of the campaign. McHugh’s resurgence parallels his team’s success, as the hurler leads Houston’s Rotation in a number of categories, including Strikeout/Walk Ratio (3.76). On the offensive side of things, Hinch would probably prefer a more even showing, particularly in terms of Batting Average, where the Astros languish at thirteenth in the American League alone (.245), and dead-last in strikeouts (706). Strangely that hasn’t effected their stellar On-Base Percentage (.328), which places them at fourth overall, thanks to their league-leading 299 Walks. Oh, and these guys certainly know how to manufacture baserunners, as the also lead the American League in Stolen Bases (59). Stud Second Baseman Jose Altuve has become the driving force for this team at the plate, leading the Batting Order with a .348 Batting Average, .427 On-Base Percentage, 102 Hits, 54 Doubles, and eighteen Stolen bases to go along with a healthy thirteen Home Runs and forty-four RBIs. Though he and his teammates struggled throughout against the Royals on Sunday, Altuve’s Fourth Inning Single extended his On-Base Streak to a sizable twenty-nine games, equaling the mark he set last season.
Meanwhile, the Angels (31-44, 5th in AL West) have struggled mightily of late, dropping sixteen of their last twenty-four outings, including six of their last seven. However, the Halos snapped a six-game slide Sunday on the strength of a late rally to earn a 7-6 victory over division rival Oakland. Trailing 6-2 heading into the Seventh Inning, the home side went to work, starting with a Mike Trout Two-Run Home Run that also drove home Andrelton Simmons to cut the lead to two. In the Eighth, Jefry Marte drove home Johnny Giavotella, only to later cross the plate via a Simmons’ Single later in the stanza. Finally, in the Ninth, it was Marte once again, who allowed Trout to score the decisive run on the strength of a Sacrifice Fly. On the mound, the hosts overcame a shaky start from Hector Santiago (4-4, 5.27 ERA), who relinquished six Runs on seven Hits, walking four, and serving a pair of Homers. Fortunately, the Bullpen was solid in relief, yielding no Runs on two hits over the final three innings of play, with Houston Street ultimately earning the victory. Scioscia will look to Matt Shoemaker (3-8, 4.43 ERA) to stave off this downward spiral, though the likelihood of that prospect happening aren’t great given his recent track record. Like his counterpart from Houston, the fourth-year veteran hasn’t tasted victory since the latter stages of May, but unlike McHugh, his team hasn’t been fortunate enough to win during said starts. Los Angeles has only tasted victory once in Shoemaker’s last five starts, the most recent of which was a tough 3-2 loss against tonight’s opponent, the Astros. On that night, the 29-year old Righthander pitched valiantly, going seven strong Innings, yielding just three runs on eight Hits, while racking up seven Strikeouts to a pair of Walks. However, catastrophe struck in the Eight Inning as he was eventually pulled after allowing the go-ahead Run on three Hits. Still, there is little doubt that Scioscia is confident in his Pitcher, who has done a solid job of separating himself from the rest of the Rotation this past month. In the month of June, he has put together a very respectable resume’, posting a 2.57 ERA and thirty-nine Strikeouts over the course of thirty-five Innings of labor. Of course, some help from the plate would be a welcome sight; the Halos have only scored fifteen runs over their past five games, while ranking next-to-last in Home Runs (72), eleventh in Walks (213), and tenth in On-Base Percentage (.319). The power loss has been directly linked to the rash of injuries that have washed over the club, as Geovany Soto and Yunel Escobar have both missed time of late with various ailments. With that said, there are still diamonds to be found in the Angels’ rough, particularly in the form of perennial All-Star Centerfielder Mike Trout and Rightfielder Kole Calhoun. The former continues to impress with a .308 Batting Average, eighty-five Hits, fifty Runs, fifteen Doubles, fifteen Home Runs, fifty RBIs, and ten Stolen Bases, while the latter has emerged with a .292 Batting Average, eighty-two Hits, forty-four Runs, thirteen Doubles, ten Home Runs, and forty RBIs.