The Houston Astros are in Los Angeles Sunday for game three of a three-game set with their American League West Division rivals, the Angels. The Astros have dominated the series thus far with a combined 17-6 run total through the first two games and are looking for the sweep today in game three. The Astros stumbled a bit in mid-August when they dropped seven out of eight games and let the Oakland Athletics catch them for first place in the division.
That skid appears to be over now though as the Astros have won five out of their last six games and have retaken the division lead. The Angels aren’t enjoying nearly as much success as they fall to their worst record of the season at four games under .500 and have lost seven out of their last eight games.
Starting tonight for the Astros is rookie Framber Valdez (1-0 0.00 ERA), and for the Angels it is Felix Pena (1-3 4.53 ERA). The Astros are -122 road favorites. The game total over-under is set at nine runs. First pitch is scheduled for 1:07 PM PST from Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
Framber Valdez will be making his first ever MLB start today for the Houston Astros. Valdez made his MLB debut last week when he came in, in relief, for the Astros against the Seattle Mariners. Valdez pitched very well and allowed just one earned run on two hits in four and a third innings. He was able to pick up the win in relief for his efforts.
Valdez is getting the spot start today to give Gerrit Cole an extra day’s rest as the Astros open a very big series against the Oakland A’s following this one. Valdez certainly has big league level stuff, and the Astros are hoping that he can help spell the rest of the rotation down the stretch as they look to hang on to their division lead and get back to the World Series to defend their World Championship from last season.
The Angels will counter with Felix Pena. Pena spent most of his season pitching sparingly out of the Angels bullpen with mixed results. The Angels have had to convert him into a starter at this point as their rotation has been decimated by injuries. Pena has just one winning decision on the year, and that came way back in June.
Pena has been part of this rotation as a regular starter for two full months without recording a single winning decision. He hasn’t pitched all that bad, but he has been getting almost zero run support. Pena picked up a career-high twelve strikeouts in his last start, but the Angels still lost the game. That performance feels a lot like a fluke as Pena had as many strikeouts in that game as he had in his previous three starts combined. Don’t let that one good afternoon fool you, this kid has a lot of growing up to do and wouldn’t be starting if the Angels were in contention.
Similar to my other pick today, this is a situation where people are focusing too much on the starting pitching matchup, and not enough on the teams playing. The Astros struggled a bit in August, but they have righted the ship, and there is little doubt this isn’t one of the top three teams in all of baseball. This is an elite team.
And even when you look at these starters I am not sure why people are falling in love with Felix Pena, the guy has been all over the place, it’s not like he has been a world beater, and Valdez has looked good, albeit in a very short sample size. I’m just not ready to say that Felix Pena is any better the Framber Valdez. And if the starting pitching matchup is even remotely close, I have to lean heavily on the Houston Astros.
This Astros lineup is one of the best in baseball. They are fourth in runs scored, fifth in on-base-percentage, sixth in batting average, and eighth in home runs. This team hits all up and down the lineup. Yeah, the lineup struggled a bit without Jose Altuve hitting as he missed a couple weeks with an injury, but since he has returned earlier this week, the team hasn’t lost a game.
I see this Astros team as jumping all over Felix Pena tonight. I just don’t think he will be effective whatsoever. It wouldn’t shock me if this game were a blowout. Valdez is too much of an unknown to look past the money line to a possible run line bet though. I like his stuff, but I just can’t lay that run and a half unless I like all sides of a bet. And with a wildcard like Valdez the mound, I just can’t get too far out of line.
So, I will back the significantly better team, and take the Houston Astros today. I don’t mind laying a little wood, as in my estimation, the Astros could be much bigger favorites in this one. The Astros will win, pick up the sweep, and then to Oakland for one of the biggest showdowns of the season with the A’s. Give me the Houston Astros as small road favorites at -122!