MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Houston Astros

Date/Time: September 22, 8:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.47) vs. Lance McCullers (5-6, 3.18)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Houston -160

Total: 8.5

It took three starts, but the Houston Astros finally solved Jered Weaver. Evan Gattis and Carlos Correa each hit two-run homers off of the veteran right-hander and the Astros moved one step closer to clinching their first postseason berth since 2005. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are now 3.5 games back in the Wild Card and are definitely approaching must-win territory for Tuesday night’s game. Hector Santiago will take the mound for the Halos against Lance McCullers for the Astros, who have now won three straight after a terrible start to September. The Astros are one game behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West and are three games behind the New York Yankees for home field in the one-game wild card playoff.

The Astros are a season ahead of schedule, but it has provided a lot of excitement throughout Major League Baseball. Astros assistant GM David Stearns was just hired by the Milwaukee Brewers as more teams look to utilize advanced statistics and sabermetrics to build their rosters. The Astros joined the AL West in 2013 and have not been a factor until this season. This is their first season with at least 80 wins since 2008. The Angels have been inconsistent throughout the season and this series may ultimately represent a changing of the guard in the division. The Angels only have one playoff appearance in the last five years, but won three straight division titles from 2007 to 2009.

Hope is not lost for the Angels, but they need Hector Santiago to step up. After outpitching his advanced metrics for basically three-fourths of the MLB season, the regression monster has found Santiago and the results have not been good. Santiago couldn’t make it out of the first inning in his last start against Minnesota. He walked six, but managed to only allow one hit, on September 6 against Texas. He gave up 14 runs in his last three starts of August. His ERA is starting to inch towards his advanced metrics with a 3.47 ERA, a 4.59 FIP, and a 4.89 xFIP. He hit the All-Star Break with a 2.33 ERA, a 3.98 FIP, and a 4.51 xFIP.

Santiago’s 5.62 ERA in the second half is a byproduct of a lot of things. He gave up 13 home runs in 108.1 innings in the first half, but has already allowed 12 home runs in 57.2 innings in the second half. His 7.6 percent walk rate in the first half has ballooned to 11 percent. His .244 first half BABIP against is .280 in the second half. The biggest difference has been sequencing. Santiago stranded 88.9 percent of his runners before the All-Star Break and has a more reasonable 70.1 percent strand rate in the second half. Right now, it’s hard to find any spot to back Santiago.

It’s kind of amazing to see 21-year-olds pitching big games for both the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros on September 22, but that’s the case. Lance McCullers is the one on the mound at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night. McCullers is 5-6 in 19 starts with a 3.18 ERA, a 3.08 FIP, and a 3.67 xFIP. The Astros have been very responsible with his innings this season, including a 20-day layoff with no pitching in August on the heels of his worst start of the season.

Since he gave up six runs on seven hits in one-third of an inning on August 3, McCullers has allowed three runs or less in all five starts and has 28 strikeouts in 31 innings of work. The flamethrowing right-hander has been a little bit erratic at times, but he keeps the ball in the park and has a good ground ball rate, so he will be a sabermetric darling throughout his career. He’s basically the polar opposite of Hector Santiago. Santiago has a good strikeout rate this season and could be a guy that outpitches his saber stats, but McCullers is a guy that will thrive by those numbers.

MLB Expert Picks: Houston Astros

Hector Santiago’s season is in a tailspin and it sort of coincided with when the Angels bottomed out in August. He can still throw the occasional quality outing, but most of those come at Angel Stadium, where his fly ball tendencies play up. Santiago has a 4.66 ERA with a .491 SLG against on the road this season. Regular listeners of my MLB podcast, The Bettor’s Box, and readers of my content know I don’t like to lay more than -140 in most instances, but I’d do it here or at least consider the run line. I think this is a rout.