The top of the AL West division will be at stake when the Houston Astros (57-45, 35-17 Home) go for the series sweep against the visiting Los Angeles Angels (55-45, 23-24 Away) tonight at the Minute Maid Park (8:10 PM Eastern).
Houston has won the two first meeting, including a 6-3 victory on Wednesday, swapping places with LA, to gain a one-game lead in the AL West standings.
“These are big games for us, no dancing around it,” rookie Lance McCullers told the Associated Press. “I think we’ve played really well and we’re going to continue to play really well going forward.”
The last time the Astros were at the top of the division this late in the year was 12 years ago. Newly acquired lefty Scott Kazmir (6-5, 2.24) will be in charge of sweeping the series and extend the lead to two games. Kazmir won his first outing as a member of the Astros on Friday, going for 7.0 innings, allowing three hits without a run against the Kansas City Royals.
The Angles are suffering from the absence of MVP candidate Mike Trout – who has a sore left wrist – and his status is unclear for tonight.
“We’re definitely going to err on the side of caution to make sure he’s where he needs to be… it’s definitely the type of injury where you would rather give it a couple of more days on this end and not risk a couple of weeks on the back end,” manager Mike Scioscia said to the AP of Trout.
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (5-7, 4.55 ERA) is responsible for keeping the scoreboard close for the Angels. He beat the Minnesota Twins on his last outing, shutting down the lineup after six innings pitched. Shoemaker has faced the Astros once already this year, getting rocked six earned runs over just three innings. It looks like he’ll need the help of his offense tonight if the Angels want to avoid the sweep.
The way the Astros have been swinging the bats so far this series, racking up 16 runs, coupled with having an ace like Kazmir on the bump, the Astros are an easy play tonight.
Pick: Astros (-137).
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally uploaded to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])