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Angels vs. Astros MLB Odds & Picks: Back Ohtani, Los Angeles Early (Tuesday, May 11)

Angels vs. Astros MLB Odds & Picks: Back Ohtani, Los Angeles Early (Tuesday, May 11) article feature image

Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Shohei Ohtani

  • Tired: Backing the Angels for a full game only to worry about their bullpen.
  • Wired: Backing the Angels for only the first five innings with Shohei Ohtani on the mound.
  • MLB analyst Michael Arinze explains how he's betting on the F5 of Tuesday night's Angels-Astros matchup.

Angels vs. Astros Odds

Angels Odds+132
Astros Odds-155
Time8:10 p.m. ET
TVSportsNet SW
Odds as of Tuesday morning and via DraftKings.

It’s worth wondering where the Los Angeles Angels might be in the AL West standings had they not endured a disastrous 4-11 stretch a few weeks ago. Three of those losses were to the Houston Astros in a series in which the Angels were outscored 31-12. Houston holds a one-game edge in the season series (4-3), yet the Astros are 1.5 games ahead of the last-place Angels.

The Angels should carry some momentum into Tuesday’s game after rallying from a 4-1 deficit in the sixth inning to defeat the Astros 5-4. Shohei Ohtani will start in the middle game for Los Angeles, and Lance McCullers Jr. will oppose him.

Despite these teams already having faced off seven times, Ohtani has yet to feature against the Astros this season.

The Japanese right-hander has completed five innings in each of his last two starts, which is a feat he hasn’t accomplished since the 2018 season. That’s a positive sign for Ohtani, along with bettors who like to back him in the first five innings of his starts — an option that makes even more sense on Tuesday when you consider that the Angels’ bullpen has logged 14 innings over their last two games.

Los Angeles Angels

There’s been plenty of fanfare over the last week about Shohei Ohtani and his unhittable pitch: The splitter.

Shohei Ohtani, Filthy Splitters. 😷

— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 27, 2021

Seeing the pitch with your eyes is one thing, but it’s even more absurd when you look at the data.

In 71 pitches this season, no batter has yet to register a hit off Ohtani’s splitter.

According to Baseball Savant, he’s picked up strikeouts 22 times when throwing the pitch, which has a whiff rate of 61.5%. It’s not often you see a pitch that boasts a .030 expected batting average and a .076 expected wOBA.

The obvious criticism of Ohtani is that he walks too many batters. While his 9.16 BB/9 ratio is troubling, it’s all part of who he is as a pitcher. He has a stubborn unwillingness to give in to hitters, which I do find admirable.

Even when they do get on base, batters are hitting just .043 against Ohtani. Only five of his seven runs allowed in this spot were earned, and when runners are in scoring position, his K/9 ratio jumps from 14.46 to 19.64.

Part of me thinks that the Angels are resigned to the fact that he’s going to walk batters because they know he’s shown an ability to wiggle himself out of danger. It’s especially easier to overlook that flaw when you consider the intangibles he brings as both a pitcher and a hitter.

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It’s important to note that Monday’s contest was essentially a bullpen game for the Angels — Junior Guerra was the opener, and he allowed three runs in the first inning before giving way to five more relievers. And on Sunday, the Angels needed five innings from relievers after Jose Quintana was pulled following four innings and 97 pitches due to five walks.

I don’t think that the current state of Angels’ bullpen will be lost on Ohtani, as it would be prudent for him to try to pitch as deep as possible to give the relievers a chance to catch their breath.

Houston Astros

Lance McCullers is off to a good start this season as he’s 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Like Ohtani, McCullers also had an issue with walks, but his 4.96 BB/9 ratio would appear to be more palatable. However, McCullers does have less margin for error — while his 10.47 K/9 is impressive, it’s almost one-third less than Ohtani’s.

The question in this matchup for both starting pitchers isn’t one of quality, but rather familiarity. Angels’ hitters have 79 appearances against McCullers, and over that stretch, they have a .290 AVG / .380 OBP / .449 SLG slash line when facing him. Contrast with an Astros lineup with only 23 plate appearances against Ohtani and a .111 AVG / .304 OPB / .167 SLG slash line.

McCullers could be under some pressure to try to match Ohtani inning by inning.

McCullers will need to be wary of Mike Trout, who has two home runs and a .318 ISO against him in 22 at-bats. Justin Upton has the second-most appearances (18) against McCullers in the Angels lineup, and he has a .400 wOBA and two home runs, and four RBI.

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images. Pictured: Lance McCullers Jr.

McCullers could be just the pitcher Upton needs to see to get his bat warmed up again. It’s been feast or famine for the Angels’ left fielder who has slugged seven home runs this season while hitting just .216 with a .296 OBP.

The Angels must start fast in this game because they’ll at least want to have a cushioned lead before turning things over to a likely weary bullpen.

Angels-Astros Pick

Hopefully, by now, you understand why I’m leary of backing the Angels for the full game.

The secret is out as to why this game will be a challenge for the Angels, which is why we see the Astros as high as -160 favorites — I don’t think they would be that high if the Angels bullpen were in better shape.

Still, this line is overvalued because it fails to account for the possibility that Los Angeles jumps out to a big lead early in the game, thus making its bullpen woes less of a concern.

That got me thinking about playing the Angels in the first five innings.

They’re already the underdog in this game, which means they’d also get a half run if you back them on the spread.

While the Angels are 3-1 in Ohtani’s starts this season, they’re a perfect 4-0 if you backed them on the run line for the first five innings. If you extend that query to include all his career starts, you’ll also find the Angels are 11-5 for 5.36 units.

BetMGM is offering a first five run line of +0.5 at -125 odds as of Tuesday morning. That’s how I’d look to play this matchup, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone taking them on the first five money line at +115.

Pick: Angels F5 +0.5 (-125)

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