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Shohei Ohtani comes off his MVP season where he dominated the game like nobody ever has. The Astros came up just short in 2021, losing the World Series in 6 games to the Atlanta Braves but even though they lost their All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa seems poised for yet another run. It’s hard to pick the over with two aces on the mound, but it’s also hard to see these potent offenses being held down very long.
We feel like this should be a pick’em, so because there’s more juice on the Astros, we’re going to double down there.
Garcia’s 2022 record: (0-0)
One of the best parts of Opening Day — which is a weird phrase to say, because almost everything about it is perfect — is that it’s the matchups of all the best pitchers around the league on the same day. This matchup also just so happens to have two of the more potent lineups in the game, which makes it all the more exciting.
For the Angels, Ohtani toes the rubber coming off the best year of his career. He went 9-2 overall, posting a 3.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and striking out 156 haters across 130.1 innings. Over his final six appearances, Ohtani had four quality starts, going at least seven innings and giving up two runs or fewer in all of them.
Ohtani went 0-1 against Houston in two starts last year, giving up just one run in seven innings in a loss in early May, before one of his worst starts of the year — surrendering six earned in 3.1 innings while giving up a season-high nine hits in September.
He’s countered by Framber Valdez, who frankly isn’t the Astros’ best pitcher (that honor belongs to Justin Verlander, but he’s still getting up to full speed after missing 2021 because of Tommy John surgery).
Valdez, had a very productive season in his own right, going 11-6 with a 3.14 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and striking out 125 batters in 134.2 innings. He put up those numbers despite missing all of April and making just one start in May, but should he stay healthy this season, he could go 200 innings.
He went 2-0 against the Angels, giving up four runs in 12 combined innings in two starts in September.
For a handful of years, the Astros have dominated the AL West. The Athletics have punched up every now and then and the Mariners gave a surprise push last season, but on the whole, this is Houston’s division.
That will be put to the test this year, with both Los Angeles and Seattle viable threats to win the division. However it’s a “we need to see it to believe it” with the Angels, who have regularly disappointed for the better part of a decade, haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, and have won precisely zero playoff games with Mike Trout.
Even without Correa, Houston’s lineup looks almost as deep as ever. Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Jordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker should make up the top six spots in the order. That’s enough firepower to compete with anybody on any day — and if they’re in the hunt in the middle of the summer (which they should be) don’t rule out adding something else to this team.
But as far as Thursday, that’s a number of guys who can work a count and the key to this game will just be getting Ohtani off the mound as quickly as possible. Anything less than six innings is considered a win in that regard.
As fans of baseball, the sentence we wrote in the last section really hurts, but it’s true. Mike Trout has never won a postseason game. He’s made every All-Star team since 2012, has won MVP three times, finished as runner-up four times, and is in the top five on two other occasions.
Last year was the first time he didn’t place top five in a decade and that’s because he was injured for the vast majority of the season, only able to play in 36 games.
The lineup, on paper, looks quite good this season yet again. Ohtani leading off, Trout batting No. 2, Jared Walsh and Anthony Rendon rounding out the top four, with other capable hitters like Joe Adell and David Fletcher threw in there.
It’s a right-handed heavy lineup in L.A., which should be good against Valdez, but the Angels are just 3-6 in their last nine opening days (granted they’re 2-0 in the last two) so it’s hard to bet on them coming out of the gate strong.
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|Houston Astros vs Los Angeles Angels Information
|Houston Astros vs Los Angeles Angels
|Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Los Angeles, California
|Thursday, April 6, 9:38 p.m. EST
|How to watch
|Fox Sports West, AT&T SportsNet Southwest
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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