Series Preview: Houston Astros (21-13) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (17-18), May 14 - 17, 2015
The Astros are still living the dream at the top of the American League West after splitting two games with the World Series Champion Giants. George Springer returned to the lineup and made his presence known - hitting the go-ahead home run in the eight innings.
Houston welcomes their neighbors to the north for four games. The Blue Jays are 5-5 in their last ten games and have lost 3 of their last four. The Jays come in leading the league in runs scored (185) and RBI (174). But on the flip side they have the third-worst team ERA in baseball (4.60), they have allowed the second-most walks (127), and struck the fifth-fewest number of batters this season (227). Toronto's one diminutional play at the moment has them third in the AL East, four games behind the Yankees.
The Jays have reconstructed their lineup coming into 2015, gone is Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera, Colby Rasmus, Casey Janssen, and J.A. Happ. Toronto replaced them with Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Michael Saunders, and Marco Estrada. For the most part, the Lawrie for Donaldson trade has worked out swimmingly. Lawrie appears to have still not figured out things, batting .261 with two home runs. While Donaldson is batting .314 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI.
Martin came at a high price, but it will be worth it if the Jays can turn it around under Martin's leadership. Saunders and Martin are both Canadian so that adds a nice touch for the lone Canadian team in baseball. The only regret might be trading away J.A. Happ. Happ has been steady for the Mariners with a 3.29 ERA in 38.1 innings. The pitching is something that is sorely needed up north.
Game 1: RHP Roberto Hernandez (1-3, 3.86 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) vs. RHP Drew Hutchison (3-0, 6.69 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Game 2: LHP Dallas Keuchel (4-0, 1.39 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (1-4, 5.00 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
Game 3: RHP Scott Feldman (2-4, 5.23 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (1-2, 3.54 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Game 4: RHP Collin McHugh (4-1, 3.50 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (5-2, 5.54 ERA, 1.69 WHIP)
The Blue Jays and Astros seem to be in similar situations when it comes to starting pitching, both a strong mix of elder statesman and young guns. The only difference thus far is Toronto seems to have more pitchers that father time is catching up with.
Roberto Hernandez, has been up and down this season for the Astros. He pitched three-straight quality starts at one point during this season, but also he has also lasted only 4 2/3 innings with five runs allowed in one start. Hernandez is coming off his best start of the season, allowing only two runs over 7 2/3 innings against the Angels.
The three-year veteran Drew Hutchison makes his eighth start this season for the Blue Jays. He too has been boom or bust this season, he has given up 23 runs over 17 1/3 innings in his four poor starts. In his positive starts, he has allowed just three runs over 19 innings. He is coming off a positive start, allowing one run over five innings against Boston. In his lone career start agains the Astros and at Minute Maid Park, Hutchison gave up four runs on six hits over three innings.
Game two, Dallas Keuchel takes the mound. He has allowed just eight runs over 51 2/3 innings. Keuchel has a 2.42 ground out-to-fly ball out ratio. The beard is 2-0 with 2.95 ERA in three starts against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays counter Keuchel with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Dickey has had some rough starts away from the Roger Centre this season, allowing 11 runs in 11 2/3 innings over two starts in Tampa Bay and Boston. Dickey has given up seven home runs this young season, and is facing the American League leaders in home runs in the Astros (49).
We say doctor Jekyll on May 10, as Scott Feldman allowed only three runs through seven inning against the Angels. The question is will we see MR. Hyde from Feldman. Twice this season he has given up five runs or more. Feldman is 2-4 with a 5.08 ERA in 14 career appearances against the Blue Jays.
Marco Estrada lead the majors in home runs allowed with 29 in 2014. As previously mentioned, the Astros lead the American League in home runs - not the matchup made in heaven for Estrada. He is only making his third start this season after making six relief appearances. In his two starts, he has allowed 7 earned runs over 9 2/3 innings.
Collin McHugh will anchor the Astros on Sunday. He had his 11-game winning streak snapped in his last start, he lasted only 4 2/3 innings while giving up 7 runs total (3 earned). Before that game, McHugh had pitched 5 2/3 innings in all previous six starts. In one career start against the Blue Jays, McHugh allowed just one runs over 6 1/3 innings.
McHugh will face the Astros old nemesis, Mark Buehrle's transgressions will never be forgotten nor will the 2005 World Series. Buehrle this has been sharp, minus one outing were he gave up eight runs, he has a 4.03 ERA in 35 2/3 innings. He is 4-0 with a 0.89 ERA in four starts against Houston in his career.
Even though the Astros are near the bottom in hits, batting average and near the top in strikeouts, they still find a way to win. Jose Altuve leads the team with a .261 batting average over the last six games - which tells you a lot about the Astros offensive struggles at the moment. Evan Gattis and Chris Carter have struggled the most, they are batting a collective 4-for-38 with one home run between them. Jason Castro has a home run in back-to-back games coming into Thursday.
The Blue Jays have six players with 19-or-more at-bats over the last six games that are batting over .300. Edwin Encarnacion leads the team in home runs over that stretch with three, he has seven runs and seven RBI. Josh Donaldson is batting .375 (9-24) with six RBI in his last six games.
Astros win three of four including one against Mark Buehrle. /drops mic