Houston's offense is struggling right now. Collin McHugh has lost two straight starts. This is not the best combination for an Astros victory tonight, but that's just a surface reading. While Braves' starter Alex Wood seems to be the kind of guy who might shut Houston down, he hasn't pitched in the majors in two weeks and got put into the bullpen after he allowed two or fewer runs in six of his first seven starts.
The Astros struggle against pitchers they've never/rarely seen. I have no proof of this, but it feels like it's been that way for at least 15 years. New-look starters baffle them. Since Alex Wood has faced Houston a grand total of zero times in his career, I'm officially worried.
The only saving grace is that Collin McHugh will be facing the Bravos. While McHugh has had some tough-luck losses lately, he's still been effective and his ERA still sits under 3.00, with peripherals that mostly support that success.
What does McHugh do well? He uses his curveball and four-seam fastball in concert to keep hitters off-balance. The Braves had done decently well against curves this season, according to the team pitch values on FanGraphs. But, they're one of the worst teams on fastballs.
As McHugh's fastball plays up quite a bit thanks to that tunnelling effect, he might be in for a big night.
The offense hopes to get a boost from L.J. Hoes' return to Houston. Since Jose Altuve's been the only hitter to show up in the past week (aside from that mammoth Springer Dinger last night), it'd be nice to have someone else in the lineup who can hit. Hoes doesn't have power, but he gets on base and has always been a solid contact guy.
What remains to be seen is whether Bo Porter will use Hoes as a straight platoon guy like he did at the beginning of the season.
Finally, just because...