Series Preview: Houston Astros at Toronto Blue Jays, April 8-10, 2014

Brad White

Astros head north in hopes of righting the ship against the Blue Jays.

You take the good, you take the bad - that's the facts of the Astros' life. Yes, that was bad reference, but it sums up the 'Stros at the moment. They have shown flashes of brilliance not seen in the 2013 season. They have also looked like an exact carbon copy of the 2013 team at times. The Astros face the lords of the north in Toronto, and hope to inch back towards .500.

Blue Jays stumble out of the gate once again without Reyes

The Blue Jays are the perfect example of how hard it is to win the American League East. The Jays went all-in on R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, and Mark Buehrle before the 2013 season; and processed to fall on their face. Which was the result of injuries more than anything else. It's quicker to just to say if you can name a player on the Toronto's roster, he probably spent extended time on the shelf last season. Thus far the 2014 season hasn't changed much, Jose Reyes is already on the 15-day DL for hamstring inflammation.

Melky Cabrera has lead the way thus far for the Jays' offense, with three home runs in 31 at-bats and .323 OBP. Cabrera has put another season between him and his previous suspension. He also has a benign tumor removed from his spin, that may have been the cause for last year's lower extremity problems - that caused him to be shut down in August. Maicer Izturis finished the 2013 season with a .288 OBP, one of the worst in the league. He is off to a hot start this season, hitting .500 over his first 16 at-bats. Jose Bautista when not busy following people on twitter, he is hitting home runs once again. Three of his five hits thus far in 2014 have left the yard.

You live by the home run, you die by the home run. Of the 22 runs batted in by the Jays in 2014, 12 have come as a result of the long ball. Erik Kraz and Adam Lind have each added to the total with their own dingers.

Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus have each struggled out of the gate, collecting three hits together over 48 at-bats. Rasmus has ten strikeouts in 23 at-bats. Edwin Encarnacion also has ten strikeouts in this young season (in 28 at-bats), but he does have three extra-base hits to speak off.

Astros hope to pick themselves up after tough series with the Angels

The Astros offense hasn't had the same spark without Dexter Fowler in the lineup, thankfully it appears he may be able to return this series. He has travelled across the border with the team. To put the Astros' offense in perspective, Fowler is still tied for the lead on the team with 6 hits in half the number of games played. Joining Fowler at the top of the category is Jose Altuve and Jonathan Villar. Altuve has been a catalyst for the offense, drawing four walks and stealing three bags thus far.

Jesus Guzman has made something of his chances in the lineup, collecting three extra base hits thus far in 19 at-bats. Robbie Grossman on the other hand hasn't thus far in 2014, coming to the game on a 0-18 slump.

Pitching Matchup

LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-1, 4.76 ERA, 1.06 WHIP) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.58 WHIP)

Mark Buehrle is known for his slow starts, that wasn't the case in his opening start against the Rays. He pitched 8.2 innings of shutout baseball, allowing four hits, one walk, and struck out 11. The left-hander's main job is to eat up innings like he has done his entire career as the current innings pitched leader in major league baseball. He is working with a fastball around 85mph. He'll need to his spots, If not we may see a repeat of the Astros' Opening Day against other big lefty.

Jesus Guzman has hit Buehrle well in his career, three hits in six at-bats including two doubles. Robbie Grossman is also 2-for-4 in his career. Outside of that, Buehrle owned the Astros in 2013 - giving up one earned run over 17 innings including a completed game shutout on July 25.

Brett Oberholtzer is looking to rebound after his first start that saw him last only 5.2 innings, giving up three earned runs. It will be interesting to see the Jays handle the Astros' left-hander for the first time.

RHP Lucas Harrell (0-1, 15.00 ERA, 3.33 WHIP) vs. RHP Brandon Morrow (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)

Brandon Morrow was shutdown in May last season as the result of a pinched nerve. The 2006 first round draft pick hopes to rebound from that early exit this season, and be a key to the Blue Jays success in 2014. His first outing didn't help that cause, he gave up four runs over five innings against the Rays on April 3. Dexter Fowler and Alex Presley have each faced the right-hander twice with little success.

The Lucas Harrell experiment continues north of the border. The Astros have thrown him out there to sink or swim, after one start he is already flailing underwater - giving up five runs over three inning against the Angels. The same game as Buehrle's complete game shutout on July 25, 2013, Harrell have up three runs in three inning on four hits and two walks.

Melky Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion is two-for-three against Harrell, while Harrell has help Joey-Bats hitless in two at-bats.


LHP Dallas Keuchel (0-1, 7.20 ERA, 2.00 WHIP) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (1-1, 4.63 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)

R.A. Dickey has a power-knuckleball that will allow him to pitch as long as he wants. The question has arisen if his knuckleball works indoors.- he has posted a 4.84 ERA in 22 starts at the Rogers Centre. He was excellent in his first start against the Yankees, allowing zero runs over 6.2 innings.

Dickey has held Jose Altuve hitless in seven at-bats. While Dexter Fowler (3-for-6), Jesus Guzman (2-for-6), and Marc Krauss (2-for-3) appear to be able to pick up the knuckler. Krauss two hits have both gone for extra baseses.

Dallas Keuchel looks to improve on his first outing that saw him up around 50+ pitches in the third inning against the Angels. Dallas fought through it and keep the game in check, allowing four runs in five innings.

The power bats of the Blue Jays have all hit the Astros' left-hander well, Bautista, Cabrera, and Encarnacion all have multiple hits in two games against Keuchel.

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