Series Preview: Astros vs. Athletics, April 24-27, 2014

Thearon W. Henderson

These guys again? A's come to town after sweeping the Astros in their previous head-to-head series.

Houston Astros (7-15) at Oakland Athletics (13-8)

The Astros have reached the other side of a American League West sandwich with Athletics and Mariners. The A's are making the trip after facing Texas, where they were swept by the streaking Rangers. Two of the three games were decided by one run, and as history dictates  this games will matter come playoff time in the AL West. For now, Houston has a second crack at the boys in green. Oakland won all three game last weekend against Houston, outscoring the Astros 19-7. Houston hopes to build upon their near sweep against the Mariners.

Missed it by that much...

The Houston bats came to life in Seattle, it only took the 2010 AL Cy-Young award winner to break them out of their funk - scoring 15 runs in the series. Chris Carter appears to have awoken the Trogdor within - belting two home runs in Seattle. Jason Castro has shown his excellent opposite field power with a home run and double to left field  in back-to-back games. Dexter Fowler has a four-game hitting streak going and he has scored a run in his last three games. Matt Dominguez is batting .357(5/14) with three runs scored, two home runs, and four runs batted in in his last four games. Alex Presley is batting .500 (7/14) in his last four appearances. The Astros' offense has been clicking more than any other part of the season thus far.

George Springer has looked like a rookie thus far in his young career with the Astros, and that's okay. He is batting .182 (6-33) with 11 strikeouts. He has shown at every level that he will struggle and figure it out shortly. I have complete faith he will do the same here.

The Astros bullpen has posted a 5.78 ERA over the team's last seven games. Josh Fields seemed ready to grab the closer role by the reins, but blew a save in Seattle yesterday after pitching two scoreless innings previously in the series.

The Texas coaster...

The A's have had an interesting past seven days, sweeping one Texas team and getting swept by the other. Josh Reddick has come back to life, getting nine hits in his last 21 at-bats with a home run and three RBIs. Astro killer Coco Crisp has been hot as well - hitting .353 (6-17) with five RBIs over the team's last seven games. Five of Josh Donaldson's last seven hits have gone for extra bases - four doubles and home run. Former Astro, Jed Lowrie is batting .200 (5-25) with a homerun in his last seven games.

A's bullpen has given up 12 runs over their last 18 games, but they are also tied for the league lead in blown saves at 6.

Pitching Matchups

LHP Scott Kazmir (2-0, 1.65 ERA, 0.77 WHIP) vs. LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-3, 3.04 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)

Brett Oberholtzer has pitched much better than his record shows. Obe' currently has the lowest run support of any pitcher in the major leagues at 1.75 through four starts. In his last start, he allowed one earned run over 5.2 innings of work against Oakland. The A's lone run coming of back-to-back doubles by Daric Barton and Craig Gentry.

Scott Kazmir, Houston native and Cy-Falls graduate, is coming off a spectacular performance against the Astros in his last start - 8 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO. The Astros scored on a Jonathan Villar solo home run, he also scored on a throwing error while stealing third. Chris Carter doubled and later scored on a Matt Dominguez single. Kazmir is hoping to improve on his only only other start in his hometown, he gave up 6 runs in 3.1 innings last season as an Indian.

Kazmir's road to return to the majors came through Sugar Land, TX, he pitched the 2012 season for the Sugar Land Skeeters.

RHP Jesse Chavez (1-0, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) vs. RHP Brad Peacock (0-2, 6.14 ERA, 1.91 WHIP)

Brad Peacock, the former A's farm hand, make his second start of the season for the Astros. He pitched five innings on April 20th against the A's - allowing two runs, walking three and striking out four. Josh Donaldson two-run home run the extent of the A's offense against Peacock that game. Coco Crisp (4-for-10) and Eric Sogard (4-for-9) have had their way with Peacock in their careers.

Jesse Chavez held the Astros to one run his last outing this season - 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO in a winning effort. The lone Astro run coming from a Marwin Gonzalez home run.  Chavez is a side-arm pitcher deploying a devastating low-90s cutter.

RHP Dan Straily (1-1, 5.40 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. LHP Dallas Keuchel (2-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)

Dallas Keuchel has pitched his brains out this season - minus his first start he has a 2.39 ERA in his last three starts. He allowed two runs over six innings in his last outing with eight strikeouts. He ranks fourth in the majors in groundball to flyball ratio at 1.56, only behind Robbie Ross, Mike Leake, and Justin Masterson.

A few A's have had success against Keuchel in their careers - Yoenis Cespedes (5-for-6), Nate Freiman (5-for-8), and Josh Donaldson (4-for-10).

Dan Straily has a low 90s fastball that he combines with a slider - he won't blow hitters away rather he is pitching to contact. He lasted five innings in his last against Texas, he gave up three earned runs on six hits. On September 7, 2013, he held the Astros scoreless over seven innings - scattering two hits and striking out seven.

LHP Tommy Milone (0-1, 4.24 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) vs. Collin McHugh (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.45 WHIP)

Collin McHugh picked up his first major league win this week, allowing three hits, zero walks, and striking out 12 Mariners over 6.2 innings. It will be the first time any of the Athletics batters have him, can lightning strike twice?

Tommy Milone was bumped from the rotation in 2013, and injuries quickly brought him back in 2014. He gave up three earned runs over six innings against Texas on Tuesday. The command lefty has owned Astros hitters for the most part -as a team they are batting .184 (9-49). Jose Altuve his batting .231 (3-13) with 2 RBIs.

Predictions

I will pick up a Jason Castro bobblehead on Saturday. The Astros will split  the Series with Oberholtzer and Keuchel picking up wins. One time, George Springer will pick up his first major league home run.

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