Houston Astros bring red-hot offense into Anaheim vs. Los Angeles Angels

Apr 4, 2021; Oakland, California, USA; Houston Astros left fielder Chas McCormick (6) receives congratulations from catcher Jason Castro (18) after hitting a home run during the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros will visit the Los Angeles Angels for a two-game series starting Monday night in Anaheim, Calif., boasting an offense that is hotter than any other in the majors.

They scored 35 runs during a four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s, and became just the fourth team in major league history to score at least eight runs in their first four games to start the season.

“The guys worked hard in spring training and they hit tirelessly in the cage and the field,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “They played a whole bunch of back-field games to try to get their stroke together, and they really didn’t like how they started last year.”

The Astros likely will be without left fielder Michael Brantley, who was hit by a pitch on the right wrist on Saturday. He was diagnosed with a bruise as X-rays were negative and could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday.

Even though Brantley began the season 6-for-9 with a home run, the Astros didn’t miss a beat with Chas McCormick in his place. McCormick took over for Brantley Saturday and went 1-for-3 in his first major league plate appearances. Then Sunday in his first major-league start, he hit his first major league home run, a three-run blast in the sixth inning.

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Luis Garcia will start on the mound for Houston, making his second career major league start. Garcia made five appearances last season, four out of the bullpen, including one against the Angels in which he gave up one run in 4 1/3 innings.

Garcia will face left-hander Jose Quintana, who will make his Angels debut after signing as a free agent after nine years in Chicago, 5 1/2 with the White Sox and 3 1/2 with the Cubs.

Quintana was limited to just four games (one start) and 10 innings last season because of a freak injury when he cut his thumb while washing dishes. He ultimately had surgery on the thumb and missed two months.

Like Alex Cobb, who joined the Angels this season, Quintana has pitched for manager Joe Maddon in the past. Cobb pitched for Maddon in Tampa Bay; Quintana pitched for Maddon in 2017-19 with the Cubs.

“He’s a guy who normally eats up innings,” Maddon said. “He has a repeatable, compact delivery and a nice arm stroke. His success, to me, relies on good game planning. He just needs a little direction on how to attack people … how to use the really good stuff he already has.”

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Quintana has pitched well against the Astros in his career, going 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in seven starts. He’s not overpowering, his fastball topping out in the low-90s, relying on mixing up his pitches and changing speeds. And Maddon believes his coaching staff has pinpointed a particular area that he can improve.

“We identified one area in which he was really getting his butt kicked pretty good, and we kind of eliminated that,” Maddon said. “It’s part of pitching to the hitters in certain areas. I’m sure other organizations know it, but I don’t want to just say it.”

The Angels are likely to give DH Shohei Ohtani the day off, one day after the righty pitched 4 2/3 innings and went 1 for 3 with a home run at the plate. Ohtani came out of the game after a collision with Chicago’s Jose Abreu in a play at the plate, but the club said the pitcher was not injured and was only feeling “general soreness.”

–Field Level Media