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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox, April 22-24, 2016

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Is this the Evan Drellich Invitational? The Jeff Bagwell Classic? Brad Mills Memorial?

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros are in a tailspin.  The Astros are 5-11 to start 2016 after going 15-7 in 2015. Is all hope lost?

No, the Astros are less than 10 percent of the season. The team has plenty of time to turn it around. What will ease mind is good showing against the Boston Red Sox in two national televised games.

The Red Sox coming into the series lighting the world on fire either. The Red Sox have lost four of their last five games. No matter the result, the winner out of this series will get a boost while the other will creep closer to desperation.

Starting pitching

Friday: RHP Collin McHugh (1-2, 6.39 ERA, 1.89 WHIP) vs. RHP Steven Wright (0-2, 2.13 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Saturday: RHP Mike Fiers (1-1, 6.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.74 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Scott Feldman (0-2, 4.11 ERA, 1.63 WHIP) vs. TBA

Both team's ace, Dallas Keuchel and David Price, will miss the series. Instead, the Astros will throw out their No. 2 Collin McHugh, No.3 starter Mike Fiers, and No. 4 starter Scott Feldman. While the Red Sox turn to a knuckleballer Steven Wright and up-and-down Clay Bucholtz. Joe Kelly will have to be replaced after getting pulled from his last start after 23 pitches with a shoulder injury -- the Red Sox have yet to name a replacement.

Collin McHugh was just was the doctor ordered in his first start at home, pitching seven scoreless innings in the team's home opener against the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals on April 11. He followed that up with a so-so start against the Tigers on April 16, allowing four runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.

McHugh has allowed 18 hits over his last two starts. He has worked around the heavy traffic for the most part, but another disastrous start like his first start of the season (1/3 IP, 6 R, 5 ER on April 6 vs. NYY) looms if it continues.

Current Red Sox are batting .326 (15x46) against McHugh with a .375 BABIP, 4.388 FIP, 10.71 K%, and 14.00 BB%.

Knuckleballer Wright returns to Houston for the first since 2013. In that one start, he pitched only one thing, allowing three runs on one hit. This season, Wright has two quality starts in as many starts. He's been on the losing end in both starts but he allowed only three runs.

Doug Fister was the only pitcher that was worth his salt in Arlington this week. The pressure may turn back to Mike Fiers to perform or he may be the choice to drop down after Lance McCullers comes back. Fiers has allowed 12 earned runs on 22 hits through three starts.

Clay Buckholtz has been all over the place for the Red Sox as he has been for much of his Red Sox career. He gave up 10 runs over his first two starts (9 IP) but pitched 6 2/3 scoreless in his last start.

Scott Feldman has been par for the course for the Astros, keeping the team in the game. Feldman has allowed three runs over his last 11 1/3 innings.

Relief pitching

The relief pitching for the Astro hasn't been the problem for the most part. Josh Fields has struggled giving up three runs in his last three appearances. But even he rebounded with a scoreless inning in his last outing. Ken Giles worked his way into a jam in Texas with the bases loaded and no outs, but the Rangers were unable to get a run across. Closer Luke Gregerson wasn't used during the Rangers series.

The Red Sox bullpen ERA is in the middle of the pack at 3.70 -- 18th in MLB. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is 4-for-4 in save chances. The only runs he has allowed came in a non-save situation on April 11 against the Orioles (3 ER, 1 IP). 2015 closer Koji Uehara slides into the setup role, he allowed four runs over 1/3 of an inning on April 18 against the Blue Jays.

Lineup

George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Colby Rasmus have been lighting the world on fire at the plate over the past week. Springer is batting .375 (9x24) with five runs scored, five extra-base hits, and five RBIs. Rasmus hit two home runs on Thursday. Altuve is batting .300 (6x20) with three extra-base hits and five RBIs.

The bottom of the Astros lineup is struggling. Jason Castro, Carlos Gomez, Luis Valbuena are batting a combined 8-for-45 in the team's last six games.

New third baseman Travis Shaw is knocking the cover off the ball this last week, he is batting .385 (10x26) with a home run and seven RBIs. Red Sox First baseman Hanley Ramirez is struggling in his last seven games, batting .172 (5x29) with two RBIs.

Prediction

Astros offense does just enough to pull out two wins.