MLB Regular Season

Matchup: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Houston Astros

Date/Time: September 21, 8:10 p.m. ET

Pitching Matchup: Jered Weaver (7-11, 4.74) vs. Dallas Keuchel (17-8, 2.56)

MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook

Moneyline: Houston -185

Total: 8

For now, the Houston Astros have averted disaster. In order to continue on the path to the playoffs, they’ll need to take care of business against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The Astros had lost seven of their last eight games before the won on Saturday and Sunday to take two out of three from the Oakland Athletics and maintain their AL Wild Card lead. The Angels are 11-7 after a terrible month of August pushed them onto the fringes of the playoff chase. Houston is a growing favorite for tonight’s matchup as the market looks to sell Jered Weaver and back Dallas Keuchel.

The Astros have taken nine of the 16 games in this season and have outscored the Angels 66-47, but a repeat performance of the head-to-head series between the two earlier this month would make things very interesting in the AL West. The Angels were a save situation away from sweeping the series, but the Astros battled back and escaped with a win that seemingly saved their season. Then the Astros lost five straight and the Angels appeared back in their rearview mirror.

Jered Weaver has a difficult assignment here. Weaver is the type of pitcher that can give the Astros fits because he knows how to play their aggressiveness to his advantage. On the other hand, Minute Maid Park is a good park for hitters and Weaver owns ERAs of 4.00, 4.70, and 6.21 on the road over the last three seasons. If FIP is your thing, the last three years of Weaver are 4.26, 5.59, and 5.71. By any metric, Weaver is a bad pitcher away from Angel Stadium. As his skill set and velocity continue to decline, it becomes harder and harder to have any sort of expectations.

In a general sense, pitcher vs. team stats aren’t very worthwhile because the sample sizes are small and often insignificant. There’s something to be said about Weaver’s .215/.235/.316 slash against in his three starts and 21 innings against Houston. He has a 16/2 K/BB in those starts. Another aggressive team, the Baltimore Orioles, also struggled in two starts against Weaver with a 10/1 K/BB ratio. There’s an element of risk to taking the Astros in this start because they have struggled against veteran pitchers that know how to attack aggressive hitters.

Some of that risk is mitigated by Houston’s starting pitcher on Monday night. After getting bombed by the Texas Rangers, Dallas Keuchel has the opportunity to bounce back in a big way for his team. Prior to that last start, Keuchel had allowed more than three runs in a start just twice since late May. With some help from the Houston front office, Keuchel made a major arsenal change a couple of years ago to throw more sliders in place of curveballs. The end result is what we see today. A pitcher with an above average strikeout rate, a well above average ground ball rate, and a guy that has been the anchor of one of the most surprising teams in baseball.

Over 30 starts, Keuchel is 17-8 with a 2.56 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and a 2.73 xFIP. His K/BB ratio ranks among the best in the American League and his .271 BABIP against as a ground ball pitcher with a GB rate above 60 percent speaks to just how much pitchability he actually has. The Astros have a decent defense, but it’s nothing particularly special that would lead to such a low number. That’s just a sign of how well Keuchel sequences his pitches and generates weak contact. He’s one of the game’s best. It’s a surprise, but it does seem sustainable, even if the strikeout rate regresses a bit next season.

MLB Prediction: Houston Astros

Jered Weaver may not get rocked like most people expect, but the lazy fly balls at Angel Stadium become a lot more dangerous at Minute Maid Park. For that reason, the Astros get the nod here, even with the big price. I rarely like to go over -140, so maybe I’d look at this game from a Houston team total standpoint or give the -1 a shot at take the push if Houston only wins by one. This could be the day that they solve Weaver.