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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Cincinnati Reds, June 17-19, 2016

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The Astros continue their trek through the wayback machine and the N.L. Central.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Houston Astros (32-35) vs. Cincinnati Reds (26-41), June 17-19, 2016

The Cincinnati Reds are where the Houston Astros were a few year ago. One, they are still in the National League Central and two they are in a rebuilding year. The Astros appear to be on the other side of a rebuilding year while the Reds just started the process with trades of stars Johnny Cueto and Todd Frazier.

The Reds still have some majors names that will be familiar to Astros fans: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips. Though my guess is the Reds would trade all three if they could get anything in return without having to pay their salaries.

The biggest surprise this season for the Reds has been left fielder Adam Duvall. Duvall is batting .259 (56x216) with 36 runs scored, 16 doubles, 19 home runs, and 46 RBIS -- he leads the team in extra-base hits, home runs, and RBIs in his rookie season. The Red picked up Duvall as part of the Mike Leake trade with the Giants -- not bad for a rental trade. Oh and he also leads the team in WAR thus far in 2016 at 2.2.

The other surprise this season for the Reds has been pitcher Dan Straily. Straily, whom the Astros traded for temporary catcher Erik Kratz before the start of the 2016 season. Straily didn't make the Padres roster and was claimed off waivers by the Reds. Straily is 4-3 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 starts this season.

The Astros come into the series on a two-game winning streak against the N.L. Central after defeating the Cardinals in a short series. Houston returns home for the first time in nine games after a road trip took them to Arlington, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis.

Time for some old time N.L. Central action:

Starting pitching

Friday: RHP Lance McCullers (3-2, 4.54 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) vs. LHP John Lamb (1-4, 5.14 ERA, 1.55 WHIP)
Saturday: LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-9, 5.54 ERA, 1.44 WHIP) vs. RHP Cody A. Reed (6-3, 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in Triple-A)
Sunday: RHP Mike Fiers (4-3, 4.76 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) vs. LHP Brandon Finnegan (3-4, 3.61 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)

Lance McCullers heads back to the mound in Houston, where he is 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA in three starts this season. He struggled in his last start in his hometown of Tampa Bay -- he allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings.

Teams have found a way to be successful against McCullers before he settles in. He has a 6.59 ERA in the first and a 5.67 ERA in the second inning during the 2016 season. He has an ERA below 2.50 in 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th inning this season.

This is the first time that McCullers has faced the Reds in his career, and no one on the current Reds roster has a career at-bat against McCullers.

John Lamb is making his 18th career start with the Reds. He was a 2008 Royals' fifth-round pick out of high school. Lamb was a piece in the Johnny Cueto trade between the Royals and Reds last season. Lamb was 1-5 with a 5.80 ERA in 10 starts last season with the Reds.

Lamb has shown spurts of great success at times this season. He opened the season by allowing just two runs over his first 10 innings of the year, but he followed that up by giving up 16 runs over 13 2/3 innings to end the month of May.

Lamb again found a good stride, he allowed just two runs over 14 1/3 innings to start June, but in his most recent start, he allowed four runs over four innings on seven hits against Oakland.

This is Lamb's first career start against the Houston Astros.

Dallas Keuchel starts in game two for the Astros. The Keuchel roller coaster continues as he has matched poor outings with quality starts at every turn. Keuchel faces Cody Reed, who is making his major debut on Saturday.

Mike Fiers looks to build upon his stellar seven innings, two-run outing against the Rays in his last start. Fiers faces Brandon Finnegan on Sunday. Finnegan is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in three starts in June.

Lineup

Votto has been hitting the ball well for the Reds over the past week. He is batting .417 (10x24) with five runs scored, one double, one RBI and nine walks over his last seven games. Jay Bruce is batting .227 (5x22) but he has nine RBIs and two home runs over hat stretch.

Duvall is batting .182 (4x22) with two doubles and two home runs in his last seven games. Billy Hamilton returns to the lineup after going on the disabled list with a concussion.

Jose Altuve continues to do Jose Altuve things. He is batting .471 (8x17) in the team's last five games. He is batting .358 (38x106) with 14 RBIs in the last 30 days. Marwin Gonzalez is will get more time at first base with Tyler White sent down. Gonzalez is batting .389 (7x18) over this past week. Could it be the glasses? Carlos Gomez is on a hot streak. He is batting .357 (5x14) with a home run and three RBIs in his last four games.

Prediction

Astros sweep the Reds. The Reds lineup is a dumpster fire outside of Bruce, Duvall and Votto. The Reds starters have a grand total of 36 career starts under their belt.

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