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Series Preview #40: Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics

The Astros (74-47, 1st in AL West) play three against the upstart Athletics (72-49, 2nd in AL West) in a weekend series with October implications

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Recency Bias


Houston arrives in Oakland after one of the worst weeks of their 2018 season, going 1-5 at home and getting swept by the M’s before splitting two against the Rockies. Houston would find their power stroke in the final game of the home stand, pounding Colorado 12-1 after averaging just 2.8 runs per game in the previous 5.

Tyler White has been an absolute beast and one of the Astro’s offensive bright spots this week, slashing .353/.450/.941 with 3 HR (2 in yesterday’s game) and 3 BB in 17 AB. His surge couldn’t have come at a better time as White is seeing more playing time with all the injuries to the roster. Gurriel has been warming up lately with hits in the last 4 games including two in Wednesday’s match and his first home run since July 7th. Bregman continues to be steady even with his power numbers coming back down to earth while Marwin has also held the line but has cooled slightly in the last few games. Reddick and Kemp would both have somewhat pedestrian weeks while Gattis would break out of a hitless streak in a big way with two bombs in the final game against the Rockies. Correa continues to recover from his injury while Tucker and the catcher position has been quiet this week, offensively speaking.

Injury Note: Springer is doing full baseball activities as of an August 15th update and is expected to be activated today, which certainly has the potential to provide a spark to the offense.

The pen has had a bit of a down week as well, with all but three relievers getting tagged for a run as well as Harris, who has given up 3 between Seattle and the Rockies. Sipp and Smith have both continued strong performances. Each appeared three times for at least 2 total scoreless innings and are both looking quite comfortable on the mound. Cionel Pérez would also work a clean inning in his one outing this week, with a walk and strikeout. Other than that everyone else, except for Harris, seemed to simply have a bad inning as some of the Astros’ numbers trend more towards the norm. Rondón’s would come at a particularly poor time as he would blow a save against Seattle to give up the sweep. McHugh and Peacock would both give up their one run in the first game against the Rockies. Meanwhile, Osuna and Pressly would give up theirs to Seattle, but Pressly would come back to have a strong inning in the final home game, striking out the side in order. Harris has had the roughest week in relief, giving up 3 runs in 4 IP across the two series.

Houston holds their fate in their hands as a sweep would stall the A’s momentum and give them a solid lead in the division with the final sprint of the season looming large.


The A’s come into this series after setting the world on fire since the All-Star Break. Since then they’ve won 7 of 8 series, including three sweeps, and have sauntered to just short of first in the division while passing the Mariners for the second wild card. Coming off of series wins against the Angels and Mariners this past week, Oakland sports an offense that demands respect and has been lead by Matt Chapman and Marcus Semien in recent series.

Semien has been doing it with power, sporting an .833 SLG, while Chapman has been absolutely locked in, getting on base at a .464 clip through 26 PA. Jed Lowrie has also been producing at a high rate this week, slashing .360/.429/.720 to go with a couple of his own long balls. Nick Martini, who got his first call-up this past June, has been impressive so far with a .302 average in a platoon role, but has only seen 72 PA. He had a strong week in his three games, though, with a triple and a homer in 13 AB. Kris Davis continued to do this week what he’s done all season and hit a couple of home runs to make it 34 on the year for him. Matt Olson has been the strongest threat out of the remaining lineup this last week, slapping 3 doubles and driving in a couple runners. Canha, Piscotty, Lucroy, and Pinder have all been having slow weeks at the plate, but they have good enough numbers on the year to still take them seriously.

The A’s have addressed pitching concerns through trades and have gone a long way to shoring up their bullpen with a trio of acquisitions. Oakland first picked up Jeurys Familia from the Mets at the All-Star break and he had pitched well for them until a couple of back to back games where he would surrender 5 runs in just 1 inning of work. They also picked up Shawn Kelley from the Nationals, who has been having an excellent season minus an emotional outburst in one game. Washington would DFA him the next day and Oakland would scoop him up, with whom he’s had a couple of clean outings so far. The A’s finished their shopping with Fernando Rodney from the Twins, who would debut against the Angels. Rodney’s numbers have been trending in the right direction even with a bit of an inconsistent start to 2018, and he has yet to give up a run as an Athletic. Other than that there is not much changed the remaining Oakland relievers have all been with the A’s since the start of the season. Blake Treinen continues to have an elite year as closer with 32 saves in 61 innings and a 0.89 ERA. Lou Trivino also continues a strong run out of the pen while Yusmeiro Petit, Ryan Buchter, and Emilio Pagán are all having decent years with ERAs hovering around 3.45.

The A’s will look to test their strength on the division-leading Astros and come away with either part or sole possession of first place.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Charlie Morton, RHP (12-3, 2.88 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson, RHP (4-2, 2.48 ERA)

Morton has had a string of 4 outings where he’s gone at least six innings into the game. The last start against the M’s was the worst of those where he gave up 3 runs in 6. Before that run he would labor through 4.1 innings in his lone start against the A’s this year, giving up 3 runs in those frames while striking out 5. Morton’s command can be a little spotty at times, driving up his walk numbers, but he’s still sporting a better-than-average 11.21 K/9 while continuing a stellar 2018.

Oakland counters with Edwin Jackson, who has been on fire in his last three starts, getting into at least the 6th in each and only giving up a single unearned run in that time. A 15 year veteran, Jackson’s only seen Houston once since they moved to the AL, where he went 6 innings of 2-run ball in 2017 as a member of the Nationals’ rotation. His ERA and FIP are off by about the same amount as Morton, but with a much lower strikeout rate.

If Jackson stays hot it’s hard to say who could have the better game here, but Jackson’s career numbers suggest he may be more smoke and mirrors at the moment.

Game 2: Dallas Keuchel, LHP (9-9, 3.43 ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill, RHP (4-2, 3.39 ERA)

Keuchel has been on a roll the last couple of months, going deep into games and showing up as one of the Astros’ better starters in that time. He had a strong outing against Seattle his last time out, scattering 7 hits across 7 innings of 1-run ball. He last saw Oakland in early May where he would face them twice in three starts, getting slapped around for 6 runs in 7 innings the first time before cruising through 8 innings with just a single ER the second. Keuchel’s numbers show that there’s not a lot to fear from regression at this point.

Cahill comes in with a similar story as far as numbers on the year go, though he hasn’t been on as much of a roll recently. He would give up 4 runs in 4.2 innings against the Angels, but has won his previous three starts in spite of a 5 run spanking at the hands of the Rangers. He’s seen the Astros twice and given up 3 ER in each of those, including a 3.2 innings stinker after coming back from the DL in July. Like Dallas, his numbers are right about where they should be and are more-or-less lining up with his peripherals.

Though their numbers on the year are similar, Cahill has been a little more chaotic recently and I think Dallas can fend off the A’s if his recent success continues.

Game 3: Justin Verlander, RHP (11-8, 2.52 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea, LHP (11-8, 3.44 ERA)

Verlander makes this start after an excellent bounce back outing from his clunker against the Mariners. He would go 6 innings of 2-run ball against the Rockies while striking out 11 in a hard-luck loss thanks to the quiet offense. JV’s had a couple of outings against Seattle, one a 7 inning 3-run affair followed by 6 shutout innings in early July. Justin’s numbers are starting to come a little closer to alignment, but he’s still just ahead of his 2.98 FIP.

Manaea has been cruising through most of his starts minus a 2.2 inning blip against the Dodgers in early August. His most recent start, however, was a 7.2 inning 2-run performance against Seattle where he would walk 2 with 3 K’s. The Astros have been able to ding Manaea when they’ve seen him this year, hitting him 4 runs back in May before chasing him after 3 runs in 4 innings in July. Manaea’s 4.21 FIP and .238 BABIP suggest he may be riding some luck, but he will still be a challenge for the Astros’ offense.

I think Verlander is still the superior pitcher here, especially with how well Houston has hit Manaea in two of their three meetings this year.

Fun Fact

Say goodbye to late night baseball as this series marks the beginning of the Astros’ final West Coast road trip.

For You Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, August 17th @ 9:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game, KIQI 1010
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, August 18th @ 3:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game, KIQI 1010
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA / MLB.TV

Game 3: Sunday, August 18th @ 3:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game, KIQI 1010
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (42 votes)
  • 51%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (135 votes)
  • 24%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (64 votes)
  • 8%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (23 votes)
264 votes total Vote Now