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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays, August 17-20, 2015

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Astros welcome the Rays to Houston for four games.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Tampa Bay Rays, August 17-20, 2015

Home sweet home. The Astros continue their homestand with the best home record in the American League at 40-19. Houston welcomes the Rays for four games.

Tampa Bay is 5-5 in their last 10 games, a stretch that included a four-game winning streak and a series victory over the Mets. The Rays were swept by the Rangers in Arlington over the weekend, getting outscored 22-12 during the series.

The Rays swept the Astros in a three game series before the All-Star break where the Astros seem to take their foot of the gas a bit and coasted. Tampa natives Lance McCullers and Preston Tucker weren't able to flex their muscles at home.

The Astros needs wins to keep ahead of the Angels and Rangers, both of whom are nipping at the Astros' tail. The Halso are 3.5 games back, while the Rangers are just four games back. The Rays are 6.5 games back of the division leading Yankees and one game under .500 at 58-59.

Houston will send out four of it's best pitchers during the series and cross their fingers against Chris Archer and the Rays.

Pitchers

Monday: LHP Scott Kazmir (6-7, 2.12 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) vs. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (9-4, 3.59 ERA, 1.08 WHIP)
Tuesday: RHP Scott Feldman (5-5, 4.17 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. RHP Jake Odorizzi (6-6, 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Wednesday: LHP  Dallas Keuchel (14-6, 2.36 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (7-5, 3.53 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
Thursday: RHP Collin McHugh (13-6, 4.09 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) vs. RHP Chris Archer (10-9, 2.93 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)

Madison Bumgarner got the best of Scott Kazmir in his last start, but now he faces Erasmo Ramirez on Monday. Kazmir pitched a 7 2/3 inning in his one career start as an Astros at Minute Maid Park this season, July 30 vs. the Angels. The Astros righty has faced the Rays once this season, May 22 at Tampa Bay, he allowed two earned runs over 5 2/3 inning on eight hits in a loss. Erasmo Ramirez pitched a seven scoreless innings against the Braves on August 11. He allowed one run over six inning on four hits against Houston on July 10.

Scott Feldman has been sharp since returning from the disabled list, he is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in five starts. He has struggled at home, going 2-4 with a 5.56 ERA in eight starts at Minute Maid. Jake Odorizzi is always a handful, but he is coming off his worst outing of the season -- allowing six runs over six inning against the Braves on Aug. 12.

Dallas Keuchel at home, it's been money in the bank for the Astros. He is 11-0 in 13 starts at home this season with a 1.26 ERA in 92 2/3 innings with 98 strikeouts. Nathan Karns is 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 10 road starts and making his first career starts against the Astros.

Collin McHugh pitched well in his last start, but Justin Verlander outdueled him on Saturday. He has posted three-straight quality starts in a row coming into Thursday's game. McHugh has allowed just four runs over his last 20 innings. Chris Archer has easily been in the Cy-Young Award conversation this season, he is the top five of many pitching stats in the American League. He is 2-1 with a 1.09 ERA in four career starts against Houston.

Hitting

Marwin Gonzalez has been hitting his way into the lineup the last few games. He is currently batting a team-best .400 over the team's last five games -- including three RBIs. Jose Altuve is batting .381 (8x21) with one stolen base this past week. Colby Rasmus has been passing out the Colby Jack in his last three starts, he has three home runs.

The Rays have six players batting over .300 over the team's last five games (with at-least nine at-bats). Leading the way is shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, he is batting .500 in his last 18 at-bats with three-extra base hits. Desmond Jennings is batting .500 too, his 5-for-10 with a triple and an RBI in three starts. Jennings is coming off a DL-stint after dealing with left knee bursitis. John Jaso, Kevin Kiermaier, Brandon Guyer, and James Loney round out the players batting over .300 this week for the Rays.

Prediction

The Astros appear to have their mojo back. A strong lineup of pitching outduels the Rays in three games. Houston wins the four-game series.

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