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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles, May 24-26, 2016

The Astros' road doesn't get any easier with the O's in town.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Welp. Welcome to the Houston Astros' 2016 season: a whole new ball game. That ball game is sadness. Which isn't actually a new ball game for the Astros? But at the start of the season, it felt like the Astros had just started their window of winning. The team has yet to show that they can still hang with the playoff-bound teams.

Speaking of playoff-bound teams, the Baltimore Orioles look like a team ready to make the jump again. The O's have been a model for solid baseball under manager Buck Showalter. The O's have made the playoffs every other year in 2012 and 2014 -- could it be time for another run?

The standings say yes. The O's are currently tied for first place in the AL East with the Boston Red Sox. Can the Astros stop the Orioles' momentum in Houston?

Starting pitching

Tuesday: RHP Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. RHP Chris Tillman (6-1, 2.61 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Wednesday: RHP Collin McHugh (4-4, 5.13 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)  vs. RHP Tyler Wilson (2-2, 3.68 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Thursday: RHP Lance McCullers (0-1, 5.91 ERA, 1.69 ERA)  vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (0-1, 2.70 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)

The Astros will send out Doug Fister in game one of the series. Fister has been arguably Houston's best starting pitcher in 2016. In the month of May, Fister is 3-0 with a 3.08 earned-run average through four starts. He has struck out 16 and walked just four over 26 innings.One the keys to Fister's success has been keeping the ball in the ballpark, he has allowed just one home run in May after giving up five in April.

Countering Fister is the Orioles' ace Chris Tillman. Tillman has been a workhorse for Baltimore over the past three season and he is peaking in 2016. Tillman is 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA in nine starts this season. But Tillman has struggled on the road, he has a 1-1 record with a 4.50 ERA in two road starts — compared to a 5-0 record with a 2.04 ERA in seven home starts.

Tyler Wilson is making his 11th career major league start for Baltimore. He is 2-2 with a 4.01 ERA in his last seven games (five starts). Collin McHugh has been his old self in May, posting a 2-1 record with a 3.86 ERA in four starts.

Lance McCullers bounded back from a rough first start of 2016 with six solid innings against the Rangers -- allowing two runs on five hits. The O's send out their own young arm in Kevin Gausman. Gausman is coming off 6 2/3 innings of one-run baseball against the Angels.

Relief pitching

Afte struggling to start the month of May, Luke Gregerson has allowed just one run over three innings in his last three appearances. Ken Giles has been lights out, giving up just one hit over 2 1/3 of an inning and striking out four last week.

Baltimore Closer Zach Britton hasn't allowed a run in his last 2 2/3 innings of work. He has allowed one hit, walked one and struck out three.

Lineup

Evan Gattis has swung the hottest bat for the Astros over the past week since returning from the minors. He is batting .364 (8x22) with three home runs. Jason Castro is still doing work at the bottom of the lineup, batting .294 (5x17). Jose Altuve cooled off a bit batting .250 (6x24) in Houston's last six games.

Catcher Matt Wieters is lighting the world on fire in his last four games. He is batting .563 (9x16) with three doubles, two home runs, and five RBIs. Jonathan Schoop is batting .300 (6x20) with a double and a home run in his last 20 at-bats. All-Star Adam Jones is batting .087 (2x23) in the team's last six games.

Prediction

At this point, I would be happy anything other then a 2-1 final score.

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