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Game No. 68 Preview: Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

Astros welcome the SOOOOOXXXXX to Minute Maid Park.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros (45-22) vs. Boston Red Sox (37-29), June 16, 2017, 7:10 p.m. CT

Radio: KBME 790 AM, La Nueva 94.1 FM
Online: MLB.TV
Rangers SBNation Blog: Over the Monster

Pitching Matchup

RHP Mike Fiers (4-2, 4.29 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (6-4, 4.48 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)


The Houston Astros are in less than an ideal place to start testing their ability to defend the best record in baseball against one of the best teams in the American League East.

On Fiers

Four of the Astros’ top options for starting pitching are on the disabled list: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, and Collin McHugh. Leaving Mike Fiers are the most experienced pitcher on the staff. An odd place for Fiers after he was taken out of the rotation for one day before the rush of pitchers heading to the DL.

Fiers is the Astros last hope for a consistent option with starting pitching. And the 32-year-old veteran has stepped up for Houston for his last three starts. He has allowed four earned runs over his last 18 13 innings — striking out 20 batters.

What has been the source of the turnaround? Changing his release angle on his curveball -- reported the Houston Chronicle’s, Jake Kaplan.

The over-the-top throwing Fiers dropped his arm angle ever so slightly and began throwing his curveball about 2 mph harder.

Fiers is getting back to near his career high with the number of times he’s using the curveball (19.2%). The pitch has increased in value from last year (-2.3 wCB in 2016, -0.9 in 2017). The changes have help Fiers, who’s seen his contact rate drop to a career low (77.9%).

Fiers main issue of home runs has stopped as well, he at one point led the majors in home runs given up with 18. He hasn’t given up a home run over previously mentioned three starts.

Fiers face the Red Sox for the third time in his career and his second start. He is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA. Both appearances came against Boston in 2016.

Red Sox bats

Dustin Pedroia is 3-for-4 with a double in his career against Fiers. Pablo Sandoval is 2-for-3. Brock Holt, Sandy Leon, and Mitch Moreland each have two strikeouts in four or fewer at-bats against Fiers.

Moreland (11x26), Mookie Betts (13x30), Jackie Bradley Jr. (11x26), and Andrew Benintendi (9x24) have been swinging hot bats over the past week entering the series. Betts and Moreland each have two home runs over that stretch.

Ending with Z

Two-time All-Star Drew Pomeranz starts for the Red Sox on Friday. The 28-year-old journeyman pitcher is on his fourth team since 2011. Pomeranz didn’t live up to his billing in his first half in Boston and has continued to be so-so in 2017. He is a little better on the road at 2-2 with a 3.91 ERA in five starts.

Pomeranz is 1-1 with a 5.79 ERA in two starts in June. A small sample. A bigger sample says that tonight’s Red Sox starter has the struggled to eat up innings. Five of his 12 starts this season have failed to get past the fifth inning.

Pomeranz faces the Astros for the 11th time his career and sixth start against Houston. He is 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA, striking out 26 and walking 13. Pomeranz’ last start against Houston came in 2015.

Astros bats

There are two Astros that have had a good look at Drew Pomeranz, Jose Altuve, and Jake Marisnick. Altuve is 5-for-12 with a double and Marisnick is 4-for-10 with a triple and two home runs.

There may be a reason that Carlos Beltran is not in the DH spot and Evan Gattis is. Beltran is batting .182 (1x11) with four strikeouts in his career against Pomeranz, while Gattis is 1-for-8 but has three RBIs.

Today's Lineups

Mookie Betts - RF George Springer - RF
Dustin Pedroia - 2B Jose Altuve - 2B
Xander Bogaerts - SS Carlos Correa - SS
Mitch Moreland - 1B Evan Gattis - DH
Andrew Benintendi - LF Brian McCann - C
Chris Young - DH Yulieski Gurriel - 1B
Jackie Bradley - CF Alex Bregman - 3B
Josh Rutledge - 3B Derek Fisher - LF
Christian Vazquez - C Jake Marisnick - CF
Drew Pomeranz - LHP Mike Fiers - RHP