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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics, June 3-5, 2016

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Welcome again to the Jed Lowrie Classic.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (25-30) vs. Oakland Athletics (25-29), June 3-June 5, 2016

The Houston Astros are playing like they've completely moved on from April. The team was 7-17 during the first month of the baseball season and have followed it up with a winning record in May -- 17-12. The Astros are 8-2 in their last 10 games.

But if the Astros hope to make any noise this postseason the team will need to improve its record against the American League West. The Astros are 6-13 against division opponents thus far in 2016. Yes, the majority of the issues comes from Houston's dreadful start against the Rangers with a 0-6 record.

The Athletics roll in with similar secures to end the month of May and the start of June. The A's have won five straight games coming into Friday. Oakland swept the struggling Twins earlier this week and had a day off on Thursday.

Now, onto the series...

Starting pitching

Friday: RHP Doug Fister (4-3, 3.86 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (2-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Saturday: RHP Collin McHugh (5-4, 4.82 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) vs. LHP Rich Hill (8-3, 2.25 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Lance McCullers (2-1, 4.79 ERA, 1.69 WHIP) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (2-6, 5.09 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)

Doug Fister has been arguably the Astros' best pitcher of the 2016 season. Fister was 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in six starts in May with 25 strikeouts and 11 walks in 38 innings. He has posted quality starts in eight of his last nine starts. In his last start, he allowed just one earned run over six innings in his last start on May 29 against the Angels.

Fister faced the A's on May 1, he allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings on seven hits and one walk in a win. Fister is 6-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 14 career starts against the Athletics. Current A's are batting .317 (39x123) against Fister with a .352 BABIP, 3.06 FIP, 12.3 K%, and a 3.8 BB%.

The A's recalled Jesse Hahn during mid-May to replace Erik Surkamp. Hahn is 1-2 with a 5.23 ERA in four May starts with 10 strikeouts and nine walks. In his last start, he allowed three runs over six innings against the Tigers on May 28.

Hahn faced the Astros in his first start of the season on April 30. He pitched 6 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball while striking out four and walking two. Hahn is 1-1 with a 2.13 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. Current Astros are batting .163 (7x43) against Hahn with a .194 BABIP, 3.20 FIP, 23.9 K%, and a 6.5 BB%.

Collin McHugh has been vastly improved since his first start of the season in which he couldn't get out of the first inning. He is 5-3 with a 4.11 ERA in his last 10 starts. He was 3-1 with a 3.83 ERA during his six starts in May. Rich Hill has found his groove with the A's. Hill is 5-1 with a 2.13 ERA in six May starts. He is making his scheduled start after coming out of his last start with what appeared to be a groin strain.

Lance McCullers has been a little of good and bad. He has allowed just four runs over his last 10 innings of work, while striking out 17. But he has only pitched 10 innings over his last two outings. McCullers is 2-1 with a 4.79 ERA in his four starts after opening the season on the disabled list.

Kendall Graveman has given up just two runs in each of his last three outings. He made two starts, allowing four runs over 11 2/3 innings in those two starts. Graveman also made one appearance out of the bullpen, allowing two runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings on May 24 against the Mariners.

Relief pitching

One of the biggest keys to the Astros success in May has been the bullpen. The bullpen is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 25 1/3 innings over the last week. The bullpen has collected 26 strikeouts, nine walks, and a 0.99 WHIP.

The players have stood out the most is Will Harris and Michael Feliz. Harris has allowed just one run over his last 24 2/3 innings of work. Michael Feliz is 3-1 with a 0.54 ERA in 16 2/3 innings with 26 strikeouts and one walk.

The weakest link in the chain has been the Astros closer, Luke Gregerson. Gregerson has allowed four runs over his last 3 1/3 innings.

The Athletics bullpen has been just as lights out. The bullpen is 1-0 with a 0.98 ERA over their last 18 1/3 innings with 19 strikeouts and three walks.

Sean Doolittle, Ryan Dull, and Ryan Madson have pitched at least three innings of baseball this week without giving up a run. John Axford, Doolittle, and Madson each have a save in the team's last six games.

Lineup

The Astros offensive explosion has started at the top. Jose Altuve and George Springer switching spots in the lineup has sparked the Astros offense. Altuve is batting .448 (13x29) with two doubles and four RBIs in his last seven games. Springer has been even better with a .406 (14x32) with three doubles and two home runs with six RBIs.

Carlos Correa started the 2016 season slow but has picked up this past week, he is batting .348 (9x23) with a triple, a home run, and seven RBIs.

Evan Gattis has been in the lineup with Jason Castro dealing with an illness. But Gattis has been struggling at the plate, he is batting .160 (4x25) with a home run. Carlos Gomez hasn't been lighting the world on fire since returning to the lineup, he is 2-for-11 since returning to the lineup.

Danny Valencia, Billy Butler, Stephen VogtJed Lowrie and Marcus Semien are batting .300 with at least 20 at-bats over the team's last six games. Valencia has scored eight runs, three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs during that time. Lowrie has scored five runs. Semien has three doubles and three RBIs.

Coco Crisp is batting .200 (5x25) over that same time with four RBIs.

Prediction

Astros take two of three against the A's. I want to believe.

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