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Series Preview #33: Houston Astros @ Colorado Rockies

The Houston Astros (66-36, 1st in AL West) head over to Denver for a quick business trip as they’ll play two games against the Rockies (53-46, 3rd in NL West)

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Have no fear... Chris is just out on vacation right now, so I’ll be filling in with the next two series previews. Look for his return on July 30th!

Recency Bias


After an action-packed All Star break, the Houston Astros looked strong this past weekend in Los Angeles as they took two out of three games from the Los Angeles Angels. Coming out of that series, the Astros now own a 5.0 game lead over the Seattle Mariners and a 7.5 game lead over the Oakland Athletics in the AL West division. This past weekend, the best performances came from Dallas Keuchel, who had arguably his best start of the 2018 season, and George Springer, who clubbed a grand slam on Saturday night and finished with an on-base percentage of .533 for the series.

If this is the Keuchel that the Astros will get for the rest of the season, then the starting rotation becomes that much more formidable. Of course, the missing key for Keuchel so far this season has been consistency, as it has been difficult for the veteran left-hander to string together consecutive good starts. On the other hand, Lance McCullers Jr. has now posted back to back discouraging starts as he got shelled a bit on Sunday afternoon. Hopefully this is just a blip for McCullers, who is far too talented to justify these recent outings.


The Colorado Rockies enter this quick two-game series with a 7-3 record in their last 10 games, including a sweep of the Seattle Mariners before the All Star break and, most recently, a series win in Arizona against the Diamondbacks. Only 2.5 games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rockies find themselves in a tight division battle of their own. With the trade deadline looming and so many contenders packed in the National League, every game matters for Colorado, so I would expect them to play every game like there’s a lot at stake right now.

Offensively, 3B Nolan Arenado is putting together an MVP caliber season so far in 2018, posting a slash line of .310/.394/.592, a wRC+ of 145, and adding 25 home runs. These numbers have helped him record a 4.2 WAR so far this year, the 8th highest mark for all position players in the MLB. It surely does not help the Astros that Arenado does the vast majority of his damage at home, clubbing 14 of his 25 home runs this year at Coors Field and posting a .370 batting average. We all know the reputation that Colorado’s ballpark has, but Arenado certainly knows how to take advantage of his home ballpark.

The surprise story for the Colorado Rockies offense so far this season has come from their shortstop Trevor Story. After struggling mightily in 2017 with a 34.4% K% and only a well below average 1.3 WAR for the entire season, Story has rebounded in 2018 by cutting that K% down by exactly 9% to 25.4% (still on the higher side) and by slugging 20 home runs in only 98 games. The result has been that through only 98 games, Story has already more than doubled his WAR from 2017, posting a 2.9 WAR on the season. With Charlie Blackmon not even close to replicating his MVP caliber numbers from 2017, the Rockies have needed Story’s rise in offensive production more than ever.

This two-game series with the Astros marks the start of a five-game home stand for Colorado exclusively against AL West opponents. Following this series, the Oakland Athletics will visit Denver for a three-game weekend series. After that, the Rockies will begin an all-important six-game road trip against the Cardinals and Brewers, two other National League contenders.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (10-2, 2.52 ERA) vs. Tyler Anderson, LHP (6-3, 3.72 ERA)

Cole begins his second half after posting the best first half of his entire career, finishing with 177 strikeouts in only 128.1 innings and a 3.5 WAR through 20 starts. Cole’s 177 strikeouts are the fifth highest total in all of baseball behind All Stars Trevor Bauer, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Chris Sale. All of these guys have had either 1 or 2 more starts than Cole, so he can actually catch Bauer and Verlander with a strong outing tonight. Cole is only 1 of 2 Astros pitchers with more extended experience pitching in Colorado, but the long ball has bit Cole in his career before. Hopefully the veteran righty can keep the ball down in the zone and mix his breaking pitches well enough in order to avoid giving up too many home runs.

Tyler Anderson enters this game having one of the best seasons of his short major league career thus far. His numbers certainly will not “wow” you, but for a Rockies pitching staff that has struggled this season, Anderson has been the steady hand that the team needs. For example, Anderson’s 23.1% K% is only slightly above average, but his 8.1% BB% is slightly below average. However, his 3.72 ERA on the season is the second best on the Rockies pitching staff this year behind only Kyle Freeland. Anderson will be a completely new face for the Astros, as no current hitter on the roster has ever faced Anderson in their career. You can bet that the Astros coaching staff used their off day yesterday to study a lot of Anderson’s film in order to form a scouting report.

Game 2: Charlie Morton, RHP (11-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. Jon Gray, RHP (8-7, 5.44 ERA)

In Game 2, it may seem like the Astros have caught a break by getting to face Jon Gray. However, Astros fans should be warned that this really is not the case at all. Yes, Gray owns a terrible 5.44 ERA on the season, but his peripheral numbers are some of the best in baseball, as he owns a FIP of 3.05 and an xFIP of 2.84. Additionally, his 28.5% K% and 6.8% BB% are some of the strongest stats of any pitcher in the league right now. It would take me a while to figure out why Gray has posted that 5.44 ERA, but I would just take this paragraph as a warning to not be surprised if Gray has a strong start tomorrow night.

On the other side, Charlie Morton needs tomorrow’s start to help get him back on the right track after a rocky ending to the first half. The All Star started off the season red hot, showcasing his moving fastball and nasty breaking pitches, but then seemed to lose all command as the season progressed into June and July. Morton, like Cole, has experience pitching in Coors Field and knows the dangers that go along with that ballpark. Hopefully he’ll use what he learned from prior experiences and apply that knowledge tomorrow night.

Fun Fact

Jon Gray’s 2.39 difference between his ERA and his FIP is by far the largest in the MLB this year and would have been astronomically higher than any E-F difference in baseball last season. Does this mean the numbers will even out? Not necessarily, but Gray sure hopes so.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, July 24th @ 7:40 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rockies - KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM, KNRV 1150

Watch: Astros - AT&T SportsNet-SW / Rockies - AT&T SportsNet-RM / MLB.TV

Game 2: Wednesday, July 25th @ 7:40 PM CDT

Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Rockies - KOA 850 AM/94.1 FM, KNRV 1150

Watch: Astros - AT&T SportsNet-SW / Rockies - AT&T SportsNet-RM / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (85 votes)
  • 40%
    Series Splits 1-1
    (66 votes)
  • 8%
    Rockies Sweep 2-0
    (14 votes)
165 votes total Vote Now