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Series Preview: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics, April 29 - May 1, 2016

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Astros hope to right the ship with three games against the A's.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros stay on the west coast, and head south to face the Oakland Athletics. Old Money Ball faces New Money Ball one more time. That may be a stretch to call the Astros' new "Money Ball" but the team is a spiritual successor to the philosophies of Money Ball. The Athletics and Astros will always look for the market influences to exploit.

Now the Astros are heading toward their peak and the A's are working on rebuilding their base after attempting to go for it all a few years ago. Houston hopes a trip to Oakland is what the Astros need to get back on track.

Starting pitching

Friday: RHP Mike Fiers (2-1, 5.73 ERA, 1.36 WHIP) vs. LHP Sean Manaea (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP)

Saturday: RHP Chris Devenski (0-0, 0.66 ERA, 0.88 WHIP) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (1-2, 4.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) RHP Jesse Hahn (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Doug Fister (1-3, 5.56 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) vs. LHP RIch Hill (3-2, 2.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)

Two pitchers will make their first major league start this weekend. One will is a highly touted prospect and the other is an under-the-radar player that has shown success thus far in the bullpen. The former is the A's Sean Manaea and the later is the Astros' Chris Devenski.

Manaea is the A's No. 2 prospect as ranked by MLB.com. He has struck out 21  and walked four in his first three starts (18 IP) with Triple-A Nashville. Manaea has always been a highly talked about prospect in many circles before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2013. Manaea was included in the Ben Zobrist trade this past season.

Devenski was originally slated to be a starter for the Astros' Triple-A team before being called into duty as the long man early in the season. Devenski has thrived in the bullpen, allowing just one run over 13 2/3 innings.

Starting against Manaea on Friday is Mike Fiers. Fiers still hasn't found any consistency during the 2016 season. He got the quick hook in his last start, pitching 5 1/3 against the Boston Red Sox. Fiers allowed two runs on five hits on 89 pitches.

Fiers is 0-1 with 3.57 ERA in three starts against Oakland in his career. Current A's are batting .246 (15x61) with a .250 BABIP, 5.933 FIP, 18.57 K%, and a 9.00 BB%.

Devenski was slated to face Kendall Graveman but it appears that Jesse Hahn will also be called up for the A's.

Relief pitching

A's closer Ryan Madson has been done an excellent job for Oakland thus far this season. He has allowed earn runs over 10 2/3 innings pitched. He has converted 7-of-7 saves this season. John Axford has been just as solid, he allowed just one run over 11 innings pitched. Sean Doolittle has struggled with home runs, he has allowed three thus far in 2016 -- posting a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings pitched.

Former A's pitcher Luke Gregerson has done the job for the Astros as the closer. He is 4-for-4 in saves this season. He gave up his first runs of the season this past week -- a run against Boston and Seattle.

Lineup

Jose Altuve continues his torrid pace this season. He is batting .370 (10x27) with five runs scored, one home run, three RBIs, and three walks. George Springer has been locked in since his slow start. He is batting .333 (9x27) with two doubles and two walks.

Tyler White has fallen off the face of the planet at the plate. He is batting .067 (1x15) with an RBI.

Former Astros Jed Lowrie is batting .417 (10x24) with two doubles and two RBIs in his last seven games. Josh Reddick is batting .400 (10x25) with a home run and two RBIs. Kris Davis is batting .321 (9x28) with two home runs and five RBIs.

Starter Chris Coghlan (.091) and Marcus Semien (.167) have struggled in the A's last seven games.

Prediction

The Astros will face two young pitchers from the A's this weekend. That can go one of two ways, the A's starter will light up the Astros or Houston will give the youngsters a rude welcome to the season. I think it will be the former, A's take two of three.