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Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Chicago White Sox, July 1-3, 2016

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Astros hope to continue their winning away with three games against the White Sox.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (42-37) vs.  Chicago White Sox (40-39), July 1-3, 2016

The Houston Astros are at their hottest entering their three-game series with the Chicago White Sox. The Astros swept the Angels and have won nine of their last 10 teams. The team was 18-8 during the month of June. The White Sox have been doing well over their last ten games as well, winning 7-3 and won the final two games against the Twins during the week.

The American League Central has seen multiple teams pull out to a strong lead in the division. The first team was the White Sox, then the Royals, and now it's the Indians. The Indians are 18 games over .500 and lead the White Sox by 8.5 games. Chicago is 2.5 games behind the Royals and Red Sox for the Wild Card.

One team that is ahead of the White Sox in the Wild card standings is the Astros. Houston is just one half game behind for the top spot, while the Astros still trail the Rangers by 8.5 games in the AL West.

Houston starts a 10-game homestand, it would be a great time for the Astros to make ground in both the Wild Card and AL West:

Starting pitching

Friday: RHP Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.41 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (1-3, 5.17 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
Saturday: RHP Doug Fister (8-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) vs. LHP Chris Sale (13-2, 2.79 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Sunday: RHP Doug Fister (8-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) vs. LHP Chris Sale (13-2, 2.79 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)

The Astros miss newest White Sox pitcher James Shields but they won't miss Chris Sale. The Friday game starts with Mike Fiers squaring off against Miguel Gonzalez.

Fiers has found his groove lately, he has allowed just four runs over his last 17 innings. But Fiers has had a large amount of traffic in those games, allowing 18 hits and five walks during those three starts. He is coming having "Royaled" has Kansas City got his pitch count up to 94 before he could complete the fifth inning in his last start.

Fiers is 0-0 with a 1.32 ERA in two career starts against the White Sox -- he missed the last go-around with the White Sox in Chicago. Current White Sox are batting .241 (13x54) against Fiers with a .282 BABIP, 3.88 FIP, 22.8 K%, and a 5.3 BB%.

Gonzalez spent his first four seasons with the Orioles before coming over to the North side. He is 1-2 with a 5.86 ERA in six games (five starts) during the month of June. He allowed eight runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings in his last start on June 25 against the Blue Jays.

Gonzalez is 1-3 with a 3.60 ERA in five career starts against Houston. He is 1-2 with a 2.79 ERA in three career starts at Minute Maid Park. Current Astros are batting .219 (14x64) against Gonzalez with a .250 BABIP, 4.25 FIP, 24.6 K%, and a 5.8 BB%.

Doug Fister gets a tough matchup on Saturday against Chris Sale, but Fister may be the one pitcher the Astros want going against the potential AL starter for the All-Star Game. Fiers is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five starts during June.

Sale came down to earth a bit during the month of June, opening things with up with three starts with at least three runs given up. But he has rebounded by allowing just three runs over his last 15 innings. He also allowed just one run in his complete game against the Astros on May 19 in Chicago.

I ask this question with each passing preview but it still lingers: Is Doctor McHugh back? Maybe. Collin McHugh as put together three straight quality starts to end the month of June. McHugh posted a quality start against the White Sox on May 19 in Chicago -- allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings.

Jose Quintana has been the tough-luck loser a few times for the White Sox while having a quality season thus far in 2016. He has hit a bit of a wall in June -- he is 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA in five starts.

Lineup

Jose Altuve continues on his MVP pace, he is batting .500 (14x28) with nine runs scored, three doubles, a triple, a home run, five RBIs, and three stolen bases in the team's last six games. Colby Rasmus and Evan Gattis struggled to start June but have come one. Rasmus is batting .476 (10x21) with a home run and two RBIs. Gattis is batting .368 (7x19) with a home run and four RBIs.

Some could argue the Astros' turnaround could have coincided with the positive trend of Luis Valbuena. Valbuena is batting .368 (7x19) with a home run and five RBIs in his last six games -- he is batting .323 (32x99) with six home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 30 games.

A.J. Reed is still looking for his first major league after 15 at-bats.

Brett Lawrie is knocking the cover off the ball over the past week. He is batting .458 (11x24) with four runs scored, three home runs, and four RBIs. Tim Anderson swinging a hot bat, he is hitting .407 (11x27) with five runs scored, two home runs, and four RBIs. Former Astros farmhand J.B. Shuck is batting .364 (8x22) with two home runs and four RBIs.

Adam Eaton is struggling, batting .190 (4x21) in his last six games with four RBIs.

Prediction

Astros take two of three, Sale is too much to overcome for a sweep.

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