The Angels have been playing with guts lately, that much cannot be denied. They’ve been steel-hardy and fierce; the offense has been opportunistic and aggressive and the pitching has been relatively smooth for the most part. The real test comes with the Angels carrying that groove into the series with Houston and keeping it strong throughout the rest of the homestand. The first game of the set shouldn’t be too difficult as long as Canning can find his groove on the mound and the offense continues rolling as it is. The Angels don’t have to do much of anything different and as long as they can maintain the mentality of playing the same baseball they’ve been and not getting in their own ways we will see continued success.
This team has a history of mentally beating themselves, it’s something that shows when we see successful hitters constantly suffering in RISP situations. It hasn’t been the case in the last few games but the 1st half of this season saw the Angels plagued with inability to hit in critical situations. Erasing that nagging mental block is something that can happen with a success series against the Astros full of well-played baseball.
With Andrew Heaney taking the mound in the 2nd game of the set we’re in line to see the definition of guts out on the mound. His first start since the passing of his very close friend Tyler Skaggs was a very solid outing that saw him allow 2 runs in 5 IP against the Astros. As solid as that was we know there is a lot of room to improve; we’ve all had glimpses of Andrew Heaney’s ceiling and he can pitch like a top-of-the-rotation pitcher when he is on his game.
The biggest challenge for the Angels will be Gerrit Cole, who shut the Angels out across 7 IP in his last start against the team. As hot as this series is this may be the most interesting matchup of the set; a hot offense in the Angels taking on an ace-level pitcher with the Angels sending Felix Pena to the mound fresh off his combined no-hitter. Will the Angels offense prevail and put some hurt on Cole? Will the Astros provide the hits that the Mariners couldn’t collect against Pena? Or will he perform with the same strength that he did against the Mariners?
Though there are many questions looming over the first three games of the set the biggest question comes in the last game, namely who will start for the Angels? Matt Harvey has had a difficult season aside from his last outing against the Mariners in which he pitched 5.2 innings of 1 run baseball. He did run into some trouble in that start as he allowed 3 walks and struck out only 3 Mariners with stuff that didn’t seem as sharp as it could have been. It’s hard to see Matt Harvey taking the mound for an extended amount of time against the Astros, maybe two to four innings tops.
If the Angels starting pitching can eat up substantial innings in the first three games they might have the bullpen power they need to power through what will likely be a long day for the pitching staff. The Astros starting pitcher for the day, Wade Miley, is throwing with a hot hand as he is coming off his third quality start in a row. During that span he’s posted a 2.41 ERA.
The good news is that even if the Angels have a tough series the Mariners are sitting on the other end waiting to be chewed up by the Halos. With the way the team has been playing in the last few games it’s fairly reasonable to think that the Angels can come away with 3 wins.