The Houston Astros had a magical run back to prominence in 2015. There were only two low points during the season, losing the division lead to the Texas Rangers and dropping a four-lead in game four of the American League Divisional Series. The Astros get their first crack at redemption against the Royals this week during a four-game series.
It is a bit odd to have the Astros having their home opener not on baseball's Opening Day. This is only the 15th time in the franchise's 55-year history that the Astros started the season on the road. The Astros are gone 26-28 in home openers.
The Royals have had a few changes to their roster, losing free agent accusations Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist during the offseason. The core of the team remains with Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain.
It is a tough challenge for the Astros to face and hope to rebound from a less than ideal start to the season.
Monday: RHP Collin McHugh (0-1, 135.00 ERA, 15.00 WHIP) vs. RHP Chris Young (0-1, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Tuesday: RHP Mike Fiers (0-0, 9.00 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) vs. RHP Kris Medlen (6-2, 4.01 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in ‘15)
Wednesday: RHP Scott Feldman (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (0-0, 3.60 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Thursday: RHP Doug Fister (1-0, 5.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP)
Remove Johnny Cueto from the Royals rotation and the Kanas City rotation thins out significantly but the Kansas City makes it work. Chris Young slides back into the rotation after pitching out of the bullpen in the playoffs. The Royals added Ian Kennedy for depth and will once again rely on the young Yordano Ventura for carrying the team back to the postseason.
The bullpen is just as lights out as in 2015 and the example that all major league teams have been using to build their pen. 2015 closer Greg Holland required Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and hasn't returned to a major league roster in 2016. Wade Davis will serve as Royals closer after taking over the job just before the playoffs.
Collin McHugh takes the mound for the season time in 2016. His first outing in 2016 was arguably his worst as an Astro -- giving up six runs (five earned) over 1/3 of an inning against the New York Yankees. McHugh faced the Royals twice during the 2015 ALDS, posting a 1-1 record with a 4.50 ERA (5 ER/10 IP). Current Royals batters are batting .214 (12x56) with a .213 BABIP, 4.264 FIP, 12.07 K%, and 2.00 BB%.
Chris Young gets the start for the Royals on Monday. Young appeared once against the Astros in the ALDS, allowing one run over four innings. In his career, Young is 4-1 with a 4.67 ERA in six starts against the Astros. He is 2-1 with 6.35 ERA in three starts at Minute Maid Park. Astros hitters are .217 (13x60) with .225 BABIP, 5.38 FIP, 24.24 K%, and 8.00 BB%.
Mike Fiers starts in game two for the Astros, he allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings against the Yankees. Kris Medlen was skipped in the first go-around of starts for the Royals. He will be making his first start of the season on Tuesday.
Scott Feldman and Doug Fister round out the rotation for the Astros, both are looking to build on short outings in week one. Yordano Ventura struggled in his first start, walking six over five-plus innings in his first start against the Twins. Ian Kennedy hopes to repeat his first start of the season, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings against the Twins.
Crush City is alive and well with the Astros. For the first time in franchise history, the team has homered in the first six games of the season. The Astros, San Francisco Giants and Tampa Bay Rays are the only teams to reach that feat in 2016.
The home run parade starts with the rookie and AL Player of the Week, Tyler White. White has the most hits (10) and home runs (3) than any Astros player in team history through their first six games. He has reached base in all six games this season.
Preston Tucker and Carlos Correa are both swinging a hot stick. Tucker filling in for the injured Evan Gattis at designated hitter, he batting .385 (5x13) with three doubles and two home runs. Correa continued what he showed in his Rookie of the Year campaign, batting .304 (7x23) with three home runs.
The Astros also lead the American League in steals with seven, the cheap base stealer is Jose Altuve with four.
Paulo Orlando leads the Royals in batting average at .375 (3x8) clip but Orlando has appeared in only two games. Omar Infante leads the everyday starters with a .308 (4x13) with a double. Mike Moustakas leads the Royals with two home runs in 2016.
Astros and Royals split the four-game series. Starting pitching continues to be an issue for the Astros especially without Keuchel making one start during this series.