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Series Preview #30: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

The Astros (61-31, 1st in AL West) will welcome the A’s (50-40, 3rd in AL West) for the final divisional series before the All Star break

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias


The A’s arrive in Houston riding high since the last time the Astros saw them. They have not lost a series since Houston swept them at the Coliseum in mid-June. Since then Oakland has gone 16-4, though only 8 of those weren’t against an AL Central team. A big part of the Athletics’ success has been a dynamic offense that has snuck up on more than a few teams this year. The last week has seen healthy offensive production, with Mark Canha leading the way with a slash line of .400/.471/.667 for the past two series. Jed Lowrie was also a solid producer, reaching base at a .500 OBP clip and driving in 5 runs as well. Khris Davis, Matt Chapman, and Matt Olson have been hot at the plate this week as well, with each sporting an OPS north of .900. The rest of the lineup has been no joke though, with Stephen Piscotty and Dustin Fowler, who was part of the Sonny Gray trade, both contributing with timely hitting. Semien and Lucroy both continue to have down years, but Chad Pinder has done well in a limited role.

As for the A’s bullpen, they’ve also been something of a strength for Oakland this year as well as in the past week, where only one reliever was responsible for allowing earned runs. Though two runners inherited from starter Edwin Jackson were allowed to score. Blake Treinen, recently elected as Oakland’s lone All Star rep, has been rock solid as the A’s closer this season. He’s 22 for 24 in save opportunities, and is sporting a ridiculous 0.81 ERA in 44.2 IP. Lou Trivino has been quietly putting together a fantastic campaign, sporting a 1.41 ERA with 9.86 K/9 in 38.1 IP. Ryan Buchter has also been a reliable arm this year, though he did miss all of May with shoulder discomfort. He’s seen heavy usage in the last week, so he may see limited duty against Houston. Santiago Casilla and Emilio Pagán have both been mainstays in the A’s bullpen, and have put together decent though somewhat uninspiring seasons. Yusmeiro Petit has seen the most work out of the pen of any of Oakland’s relievers, and can work up to 3 innings at a time. He’s not exactly lights out and has surrendered runs to Houston both times he’s faced them this year.

The A’s find themselves with an outside chance to compete for a wild card, but will first need to see if they can find success against the AL West, starting with the Astros.


The Astros have been romping through the easy part of their schedule, currently on a 6 game win streak and having gone 24-7 since playing Boston at the beginning of June. This past week has seen them face off against the Rangers and White Sox, sweeping both in 6 games. During that time, the offensive has been very impressive, with Gurriel especially popping off by slashing .429/.519/.857 with 2 home runs and 3 doubles. Altuve and Reddick both mashed a couple of homers as well and are sporting OPS’s over 1.000. Bregman was right there with them, joined by Gattis and Kemp as the other three players to play in at least 5 games with an OPS over .950. Federowicz and Stassi have both had excellent plate appearances as well, making the offensive production from the catcher position a blessing in disguise during McCann’s absence. Gonzalez and Springer continue to slump, though there have been signs of life from both recently. Tucker also made his much ballyhooed debut, going 1 for 7 with a walk, an RBI, and 3 K’s in 2 games, but looked much better at the plate in his second start.

The Chicago series was a little uncharacteristic for some members of the Astros’ bullpen, as both Devo and Peacock would give up earned runs. Devo has been looking a little shaky on the mound recently and ended up getting tagged for a couple of runs in his last two appearances. However, that did come at the end of a string of 13 consecutive scoreless innings. Peacock would get stung by one bad inning against the White Sox, where he gave up three garbage runs on 2 home runs in an 11-4 rout. He did surrender a solo home run in his previous appearance against the Rays, however. Giles also gave up a solo shot during a mop up inning against Chicago. As for the good news, Collin McHugh has emerged as one of the premier relievers in the league with a dazzling 0.86 ERA in 42 innings this season. He would see the most work this past week with 5 innings of shutout baseball. Rondón has also continued his strong performance in the closer role, nabbing two more saves and striking out 4 in 2.1 IP. Smith also made his return to active duty with 2 scoreless innings.

The Astros will try to beat up on an A’s team that they’ve mostly had their way with this year and extend their lead in the division again while riding the recent momentum all the way to the break.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Frankie Montas, RHP (4-2, 3.83 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (9-2, 2.70 ERA)

Montas makes this start after a decent-enough outing against Cleveland last Sunday. He would go 5.2 IP and gave up 3 ER, but would strikeout 6 in those frames as well. Before that he had his worst start of the year against Detroit where he would only go 3 innings and give up 6 ER with only a single strikeout. He faced Houston in mid-June, where he would surrender 7 runs, 5 earned, in 5.1 innings of work. His BABIP and FIP do seem to suggest a little bit of bad luck lately though.

Cole will take the mound for Houston after one of his worst starts as an Astro, where he would surrender 4 ER and 1 home run in only 5 IP. He would keep up with his strikeout numbers though, sitting down 7 Rangers on strikes during that game. Cole has seen Oakland three times this season and has had one really good start against them and two mediocre ones. His most recent game against them went 6 innings with 4 ER and 6 K’s, but featured 2 homers. Cole has seen his HR/9 climb lately, having given up at least one in 8 of his last 10 games.

I would think that Cole has a better chance of fending of the A’s than Montas the Astros in this one.

Game 2: Sean Manaea, LHP (8-6, 3.33 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (9-4, 2.15 ERA)

Manaea, along with James Paxton, is beginning to emerge as a premier lefty in the division. He had a bit of a stretch where he was bad to mediocre, but has since corrected and turned in 5 good starts in a row. He’s seen Houston twice back in late April and early May with one dominant 7.0 IP 1 ER outing and one where he was tagged for 4 ER in 5.2 IP. Manaea’s low BABIP and K/9 coupled with a high FIP suggest he might be walking a bit of a tightrope, but a 1.74 BB/9 also shows he might have the command suited to doing so.

The Astros counter with Verlander, who had an excellent bounce back start against the White Sox after two suspect games in a row against Toronto and Tampa. He would strikeout 10, his fourth double digit strikeout game on the year, and go 7 IP with 2 ER and no walks. He’s seen Oakland once in 2018, when he would go 7 innings but give up 3 ER along with 2 homers and 7 K’s. Like Manaea, Verlander looks capable of denying regression thanks to excellent command, which helps him to wiggle out of trouble when needed.

Both pitchers are perfectly capable of bringing the Ace Stuff, so I’m going to go ahead and let my bias show here to say that Verlander should have the advantage.

Game 3: Chris Bassitt, RHP (1-3, 3.00 ERA) vs. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP (10-3, 3.41 ERA)

Bassitt has been Jonny-on-the-spot for the A’s all season, making spot starts for both Trevor Cahill and now Daniel Mengden, with several round trips to AAA and back in the middle of it. He labored through 4.2 innings against the Padres in his most recent start, giving up 7 hits and 3 walks, but would only get tagged for 2 ER during that game. He would go 6 innings of shutout ball against the Tigers in the start before that, but also walked 5 in those frames. He hasn’t shown a lot of dominance on the mound in his 5 MLB starts this year except for his first one against the Royals back in early June.

Lance will make this start after tossing another gem against Chicago, where he would go 7 innings with only 1 ER and a career high 12 K’s. Lance has now gone at least 6 innings in his last 7 games and has not lost a start since May 26th. He’s had one excellent start against Oakland this year where he would give up 2 ER in 7 innings, but also struggled through 5 innings of 2 run ball against them earlier in the year. Lance seems to have been able to find the feel for his curve recently and his advanced stats show that he’s right about where he should be numbers wise.

Bassitt has had some good starts, but the Astros should be able to take walks and get chances against him while the same is less true of the A’s off of McCullers.

Game 4: TBD vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (11-2, 2.83 ERA)

This spot in the rotation is currently occupied by Edwin Jackson, who has filled in the last three times around with good results. He has a 2.45 ERA in 18.1 IP with a 7.85 K/9 and 1.96 BB/9, and did manage to hold Cleveland’s offense to 2 ER each in two consecutive starts. However, there are rumors that Trevor Cahill will make his return to the rotation in this start. Cahill has been on the DL since the beginning of June with an Achilles injury and recently threw 4 scoreless innings in a rehab AAA start. He was having a pretty good start to the season, going 48.2 IP with a 2.77 ERA, 8.69 K/9, and 2.03 BB/9. Houston was able to tag him for 4 runs, 3 earned, in 6 innings during the one game he started against them this year.

Morton will get the ball for the Astros following an outing that looked like it had him cruising through at least 6 innings of dominant baseball. Unfortunately, the wheels would come off where Charlie would give up 4 ER to Chicago in the 6th before yielding to Harris to get the final out. Before that Morton had looked to be finding his early season form once more with 4 quality starts in a row, three of them especially strong. Oakland has yet to see him this season. Charlie did continue his strikeout tear in his last few games, fanning 8, 11, and 13 respectively. He has continued to give up walks though, but not at an alarming rate.

Hard to say which pitcher is more likely to win this one since it’s not even clear which one will get the start.

Fun Fact

Two more wins and the Astros will have won the season series against the A’s, which would be their second divisional season series win before the All Star break.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, July 9th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Tuesday, July 10th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Wednesday, July 11th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 4: Thursday, July 12th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network, MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (35 votes)
  • 53%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (137 votes)
  • 22%
    Series Split 2-2
    (58 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Win 3-1
    (14 votes)
  • 4%
    A’s Sweep 4-0
    (12 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now