Game Preview: Astros vs. Nationals No. 2

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Houston concludes a quick trip to the nation's capital Wednesday.

Houston has been cursed with something this season. They get the hits. They don't always score the runs.

Last night, they pounded out 14 hits but couldn't score enought to topple the Nationals. In short, they played the Teddy Roosevelt in the Nationals' presidential race of life.

But, good signs abounded. Jose Altuve had four hits. Dexter Fowler and George Springer were a combined 4-for-9 and Jonathan Villar had his best offensive game in over a month. Jerome Williams didn't give up a run while recording an out for the first time in six games.

Yet, Dallas Keuchel still got rocked (by Keuchel standards) and the story came out that the Nationals specifically laid off anything low from him. If this becomes a trend, Our Man Keuchel may plummet back to earth in a big way.

So, what's on deck tonight? Houston will face Gio Gonzalez, one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. Gonzalez has a 4.62 ERA but peripherals that put him a full run better than that. He's striking out 24 percent of the batters he faces and walking nine percent.

That strikeout rate is still worrisome, as the Astros are still striking out 22 percent of the time this season. That number is a full 3 percent lower than in 2013, but in the past week, the Astros strikeout rate has crept back over 24 percent. Will Gonzalez be able to take advantage of this?

Facing him will be Scott Feldman, Houston's forgotten starter. In April, Feldman was one of the few bright spots of the team, despite missing time with an injury. Since then, he's come back and pitched well, but still doesn't strike anyone out. Combine that with a beatdown in one start and the worm has turned for Feldman.

It misses the point at how effective he's been, however. His ground ball rate is over 50 percent. His line drive rate is right in...line...with last season. Oh, and he's only allowed 3 percent infield fly balls, down a huge percentage from his career. Expect that to go back up, leading to more easy outs and better performances over the rest of the season.

There's still the drop in velocity to contend with, but conversely, Feldman's fastball has been the best of his career, according to Pitch F/X linear weights. His sinker and slider, too, are showing career-best marks. The only pitch of his suffering right now is his curve, which is typically at least four runs above average, but has been about four runs below average this year.

Don't sleep on Feldman, is all I'm saying. Do you know how many free agent starters from last year have ERAs under 4.00? I don't either, but I assume there aren't that many. Neither Ubaldo Jimenez nor Matt Garza can make that claim.

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