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Series Preview: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers, June 6-9, 2016

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The Astros can only go up from 0-6 against the Rangers.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (28-30) at Texas Rangers (34-22), June 6-9, 2016

The Houston Astros have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the past month. The team is 20-13 in their last 33 games and 8-2 in his last 10 games. Which is awesome for Astros fans. But then you look ahead to the Rangers series and see that team that played Arlington has been just as good. The Rangers have been 8-2 in their last games as well. The Rangers took the lead in the AL West with a sweep of the Mariners over the weekend.

The Astros must overcome their 0-6 start against the Rangers this season to keep their hot streak going.

Starting pitching

Monday: RRHP Mike Fiers (3-3, 4.84 ERA, 1.32 WHIP) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (5-0, 3.09 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)

Tuesday: LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-7, 5.50 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (5-1, 3.39 ERA, 1.32 WHIP)

Wednesday: RHP Doug Fister (5-3, 3.51 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (2-0, 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP)

Thursday: RHP Collin McHugh (5-4, 4.97 ERA, 1.46 WHIP) vs. LHP Martin Perez (4-4, 3.24 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)

Mike Fiers is expected to set the tone for the Astros in game one against Colby Lewis. This is a less than ideal starting matchup all around. Fiers struggled in his one appearance in Arlington last season in which he gave up six runs on seven hits over five innings of relief in his first appearance as an Astro. But Fiers was solid in his one start against the Rangers this season already at Minute Maid Park, he allowed just two runs over seven innings on six hits.

Fiers rebounded from his roughest start of 2016, 7 runs over 3 2/3 innings on May 27 against the Angels, by pitching six innings of one-run baseball in his last starts (6 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 7 K, 2 BB vs. Arizona on June 1). Minus that one start poor outing, Fiers has three quality starts in a row.

Current Rangers are batting .280 (14x50) against the Fiers with a .353 BABIP, 3.03 FIP, 27.5 K%, and a 0.0 BB%.

Colby Lewis owns the Astros plain and simple. He is 10-1 with a 2.50 ERA in his last 13 starts against Houston. On top of that Lewis having a career year. Lewis was 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA in six May starts, while striking out 27 and walking five.

He pitched six scoreless innings against the Indians on May 31, allowing just two hits and walking two.

Current Astros are batting .258 (41x159) against Lewis with a .291 BABIP, 3.89 FIP, 21.7 K%, and a 1.2 BB%.

Tuesday's matchup squares off the two Texas teams' No. 1 starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Cole Hamels. Keuchel is hoping he has returned to form after posting back-to-back quality starts. Hamels posted his worst outing of 2016 on May 27 (6 runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 against the Pirates) and rebounded with a quality start against the Indians (7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 5 K, 3 BB).

Doug Fister faces the newly return Yu Darvish. Fister has been the Astros best pitcher for much of the season, as the very least he has earned the spot of not being pushed to the bullpen. Fister pitched six innings of scoreless baseball in his last outing, and he allowed just two runs over six innings in his one start against Texas this season. Darvish is making his third major league start this season, he hasn't pitched past the sixth inning in either start.

Doctor McHugh may be back? He pitched his first complete game on May 30 and followed that up by going only 5 1/3 on June 4. Thursday will be his first start against the Rangers in 2016.

Martin Perez has been stellar in his last seven outing, he is 3-2 with a 2.55 ERAwith 27 strikeouts and 17 walks. He has three straight quality starts coming into the series.

Relief pitching

The Rangers bullpen has given up seven runs over their last seven games (17 1/3 innings of relief). The bullpen has a 3.634 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP over that time. Tony Barnette (2 1/3 IP) and Cesar Ramos (5 IP) have been the two biggest cuprates for runs, each having given up two.

Sam Dyson (2 Saves) and Ramos (1 save) have combined to go three-for-three in the Rangers' save chances over the past week. So all and all the Rangers bullpen has been solid coming into the series.

The Astros bullpen has been just as solid minus one pitcher, closer Luke Gregerson. Will Harris picked up the save on Sunday and manager A.J. Hinch wouldn't name a closer after the game. Gregerson has given up four runs over his last 2-plus inning of work -- including two game-tying home runs.

The Astros biggest bullpen arms have continued to chug along. Ken Giles has pitched three scoreless innings over the past week, Michael Feliz has pitched 4 2/3 scoreless and Will Harris added three clean innings over the past week.

For the time being I expect Will Harris to get the call if the Astros need a save.

Lineup

The top three hitters in the Astros lineup are smoking hot at the plate. Carlos Correa is batting .414 (12x29) with three triples and seven RBIs over the team's last seven games. George Springer has found a home at the top of the lineup, batting .406 (13x32) with eight runs scored and eight RBIs. Jose Altuve is batting .379 (11x29) in his last seven games.

Luis Valbuena and Colby Rasmus are hitting the ball had but the balls aren't dropping in. Valbuena is batting .227 in his last six games with one home run. Rasmus is batting .217 (5x23) with three RBIs. Tyler White has hit another slump, he is batting .150 (3x20) in his last five games.

The Rangers have four players batting over .300 in the team's last six games with at least 14 plate appearances: Ryan Rua (.429, AB), Jurickson Profar (.393, 28 AB), Elvis Andrus (.375, 24 AB), and Ian Desmond (.370, 27). Profar and Nomar Mazara each have two home runs over that same stretch. Desmond had three double and a home run in his last six games.

Mitch Moreland is struggling, batting .091 (2x22) in his last six games. Prince Fielder is batting .067 (1x15) in his last four games.

Prediction

The Astros take a step forward by splitting the series 2-2. A moral victory as the Rangers will still have a six-game lead in the standings.

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