Astros vs Angels – MLB Pick for May 14th
Tonight brings us a fascinating series between the 2 best teams in the American League West. Entering play on Monday, the defending world champion Houston Astros currently hold a narrow 1-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels come into the opener of the 3-game series having split a 4-gamer with the Twins, while the Astros took 2 of 3 from the Rangers over the weekend.
Tonight’s game brings us a matchup between a pair of intriguing young starting pitchers. Lance McCullers Jr. takes the hill for Houston opposite Angels lefty Andrew Heaney.
McCullers is off to a strong 5-1 start with a 3.72 ERA through 8 outings. McCullers has posted strong strikeout numbers (27.4 percent K-rate), but walks have continued to haunt him. He has a walk rate of 10 percent this season, which is going to have to come down if he wants to start pitching deeper into games.
The high walk totals have hurt LMJ in terms of his pitch count, and he’s been able to go deeper than 6 innings just 3 times in 8 starts. Aside from one blow-up outing against Minnesota, though, the young right-hander has generally pitched well in terms of limiting damage. A matchup tonight with the Angels isn’t easy by any means, as the Halos don’t strike out much and have plenty of thunder in the lineup. Fortunately for McCullers, his ground ball tendencies tend to help keep the ball in the ballpark.
On the flip side we have Heaney, who is also off to a strong start to the year. He had one terrible outing against San Francisco in which he yielded 7 earned runs in just 4.1 innings, but he hasn’t allowed more than 3 runs in any of his other 4 starts. As a result of the lone poor start, though, his 4.78 ERA is a bit bloated and doesn’t tell the whole story about how well he’s been throwing.
Heaney’s been strong with the strikeouts (25.7 percent) while keeping his walks down in comparison to McCullers (7.1 percent). He’s been essentially neutral in terms of ground ball/fly ball splits over the course of his career, with a slight lean toward being more of a fly ball pitcher.
Aside from injuries, one of Heaney’s biggest problems early in his career has been his wide split. He has effectively neutralized fellow lefties, but right-handed hitters have given him problems. He gave up 12 homers in just 21.2 innings last season, all to righties. As we know, the Astros have right-handed power in spades with the likes of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa in the lineup.
Still, this game is being played at Angel Stadium, which is one of the best pitching environments in the league. It’s also expected to be chilly tonight in Anaheim, which is another boost to pitchers. The implied total of 8 runs certainly isn’t high, but I think we have a pitcher’s duel in store tonight. It’s also worth noting that both teams have excellent bullpens to back their starters.
I think the under on 8 runs is the play here.
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