Houston Astros (36-74) vs. Boston Red Sox (68-45), 7:10 pm (CT)

USA TODAY Sports

Astros welcome the AL East leading Red Sox for a three game series. Watch out for the bandwagon, if you're heading out to the ballpark today.

Boston at Houston , 7:10 pm (CT)

TV: CSN Houston, MLB.TV
Radio: KBME 790 AM, KLAT 1010 AM
Red Sox SBNation Blog: Over the Monster

Pitching Match

RHP John Lackey (7-8 / 3.23 ERA / 1.34 WHIP) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer ( 1 - 0 / 3.77 ERA / 0.98 WHIP)

Preview

It's that time of year again, normally marked by Cubbie blue or Cardinal red. Now the Astros will welcome the Yankee pinstripes and the team from Beantown. The bandwagon fans are coming, the bandwagon fans are coming. I kid.

Lets talk about the Red Sox, this same time last year they had a record of 54-55. They were 10.5 games behind the Yankees in the east, and 4.5 games behind Oakland for the final Wild Card spot. O, how one season can make all the difference. The Red Sox have the most wins in baseball at 68 - 45, one game ahead the Rays for AL East lead.

Who would have though that Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, and Shane Victorino were the missing pieces in Boston's lineup. In reality, the key was getting healthy. The Boston rotation was hampered by injuries the last few seasons, they now have the third best ERA in the American League (3.84). They are second only to the juggernaut Tigers rotation with 606 strikeouts as a starting staff.

On the other side of the coin, the Boston offense leads the American league in total bases (1720), runs scored (568), runs batted in (547), and on-base plus slugging (.784). As a team, the Red Sox are batting .250 with a .728 OPS since the All-Star break. Leading the way for Bo-Sox is the immortal David Ortiz, batting .323 (20-62) with five extra base hits and six runs batted over his last 16 games. Both Drew and Victorino have been hot over their last seven games, each batting .400. Together collecting seven extra bases, scoring 11 runs and driving a total of 10 runs. Jacoby Ellsbury has filled up the stat sheet over the last 10 days, batting .311, three extra base hits, and driving in four runs. He is also the only Red Sox player to attempt to steal a base over the last seven games, and he is 2-2. Boston's new $100 million dollar man, Dustin Pedroia, has been batting .154 with two home runs and 10 runs batted in since the break. Napoli has 21 strike outs in his last 51 at-bats.

Boston's starter tonight is a resident of Abilene, Texas, John Lackey who missed the entire 2012 season as a result of Tommy John surgery. It appears he has returned to full form in 2013, with the 12th lowest ERA in the American League at 3.23. He has lasted to the six inning in his last nine starts, and he has given up three runs or more in his last three starts. In his most recent start, against Seattle, he allowed three runs over seven innings. He currently has his highest ground ball rate of his career 49.4%* and his second highest home run-to-flyball rate of his career (14.7%*). The FB/HR rate has shown up the most on the road, he has a 4.11 ERA in road starts with triple home runs allowed (13 - 4).

In Lackey's second starts of the season, he held the Astros to one run over six innings. Jose Altuve and Robbie Grossman were both 0-for-3 against the right-hander. Jason Castro was 1-for-2 with a walk.

It's been a mixed bag in general for the Astros offense coming in tonight's game. Grossman , Altuve, and Matt Dominguez are batting over .300 in the Astros' last seven games. Jason Castro has driven in six runs over that same stretch. Brett Wallace checks in with two home runs and four runs batted in. Marc Krauss, Chris Carter, and Jonathan Villar are batting .200 and under over the Astros' last two series. Villar has one hit over his last five starts. Carter and Villar are leaders in the clubhouse for the Kstro title at the moment, each have eight strikeouts in 20+ at-bats.

Tonight's starter for the Astros is Brett Oberholtzer.

Oberholtzer earned a second start after holding the powerful O's offense at bay for seven scoreless innings. Obi' struck out six hitters, and he had only thrown 86 pitches when he left the game. This will be his first start at the Juice Box where he currently has a 11.25 ERA in two relief appearances.


*Stats courtesy of FanGraphs


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