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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 7:00 AM

This is shaping up to be quite a divisional race in the AL West! The Los Angeles Angels had overtaken the Houston Astros with a sustained surge of excellence just before the All-Star Break. Instead of sitting idly by, the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir to bolster their starting rotation for the stretch run. A rebuilding effort that wasn’t supposed to arrive until 2016 or later is now very much in play for a world title NOW!

Entering a three-game series between the two that begins Tuesday night in Houston, the Angels have a one game lead…

LA Angels 55-43

Houston 55-45

That’s two in the loss column, but just one overall because a Houston win and an Angels loss forges a virtual tie. It’s worth noting though that the Angels have had the slightly friendlier schedule so far. Look at one of our pet stats…Wins Minus Home Games Played…

Houston +5 (exactly 50 home games and 50 road games)

LA Angels +2 (the Halos have played 53 home games, only 45 road games)

Wow…the Angels only lead by a sliver and have to play eight road games to find schedule equilibrium. Houston could really make a statement in the race by sticking some road losses on the Angels immediately.

Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the series…

 

OFFENSE

LA Angels: 4.32 runs per game, .314 on-base, .403 slugging

Houston: 4.37 runs per game, .308 on-base, .422 slugging

Those look even…but we have ballpark illusions in play here. The Angels play their home games in a pitcher’s park. The Astros play their home games in a bandbox that artificially increases their slugging percentage. In ROAD ONLY data, the Angels are better at runs-per-game with a 4.73 to 4.34 advantage. In ROAD ONLY data, the Angels actually have the better slugging percentage by .406 to .396. Handicappers need to know that LA has the superior of the two offenses.

 

TUESDAY’S PITCHERS

C.J. Wilson: 3.59 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.5 K-Rate, 6.4 IP-per-Start

Colin McHugh: 4.25 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 7.0 K-Rate, 6.4 IP-per-Start

Wilson is one of the few pitchers in the majors who stayed on rotation rest-wise through the All-Star Break. He’s been consistent enough of late…which means you can take him if you’re confident of run support but can’t ever be confident that he’s a sure thing to throw a gem. McHugh has thrown quality starts in six of his last seven games, on his way to an 11-5 won-lost record. But…he’s flirting with disaster with some high hit counts. That ERA isn’t a lie. Similar pitchers here in terms of where they stand in the big picture. Not scary, but good enough. The ERA’s might be hinting at an Over.

 

WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS

Garrett Richards: 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.8 K-Rate, 6.5 IP-per-Start

Lance McCullers: 2.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate, 5.8 IP-per-Start

This is a prime time game ESPN. Richards has knocked about a run off his ERA over his last eight starts…and is one of the main reasons the Angels surged back into first place. He’s not an ace…but he’s more likely than C.J. Wilson to have ace-like outings. McCullers has been fairly stellar at run prevention…but he’s not lasting deep enough into games. He used up a lot of pitchers getting strikeouts. The Astros have to defend the middle innings well because he’s not always there for them. Houston only has a 5-7 record in his 12 starts despite the ERA and K-Rate. Might be a half-game pitchers’ duel for you 5-inning handicappers.

 

THURSDAY PITCHERS

Matt Shoemaker: 4.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.6 K-Rate, 5.6 IP-per-Start

Scott Kazmir: 2.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 8.0 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start

Shoemaker has settled into relative effectiveness over his last few starts. So, he’ll probably have better numbers than you see above going forward. Kazmir had a great debut for the Astros in Kansas City. He threw seven shutout innings and only allowed three hits. And, he knows he was acquired to win the big games! Can he handle the pressure in his first “home” outing in the pennant race? If so, he’s a great bet. If not…then the dog or the Over deserve some thought.

JIM HURLEY will likely have at least one release in this high profile series. You can purchase daily BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about our “Dollars of August” football package when you call. The NFL Preseason starts a week from Sunday!

You’ll notice there’s plenty of football on our upcoming NOTEBOOK schedule…

Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview…NY Yankees at Texas

Thursday: College Football Preview…American Athletic Conference

Friday: College Football Preview…the Independents

Saturday: College Football Preview…ACC Atlantic

Sunday: College Football Preview…ACC Coastal

Monday: MLB Series Preview…Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh

Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…Kansas City at Detroit

Wednesday August 5: College Football Preview…Pac 12 North

Thursday August 6: College Football Preview…Pac 12 South

Friday August 7: College Football Preview…Big 12

Saturday August 8: NFC North Preview to get you ready for the Hall of Fame Game (Vikings vs. Steelers)

The rest of our NFL divisional previews will run on game nights through Weeks One and Two of the exhibition slate. Those will get you ready for games like Green Bay/New England, Denver/Seattle, and Indianapolis/Philadelphia. Football is in the air!

Keep building your bankrolls with baseball…and keep getting those BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

 

Be sure to follow:

Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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