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Series Preview #43: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (80-50, 1st in AL West) host the Athletics (79-52, 2nd in AL West) in the final 2018 series against their red-hot division rival

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Athletics

The A’s start this series after yet another week of strong baseball, this time with two straight series wins against the hapless Rangers and slightly-less-hapless Twins. Winners of 7 of their last 10, the A’s are currently halfway through 20 straight games without a break, testing their mettle just as the final push for the postseason begins. However, their real test is just getting started as they face off against Houston, Seattle, and the Yankees in the next three series.

The A’s offense as been beating the stuffing out of opposing pitching, belting 15 home runs and 16 doubles as a group in the last week. They have 5 players with an OPS over 1.150 during that time, with old friend Jed Lowrie leading the pack with a stratospheric .391/.500/.739 slash line. Stephen Piscotty is right on his tail with an even 1.200 OPS while Lucroy, Laureano and Chapman all round out the thousandaire club for the week at 1.176, 1.173, and 1.154 respectively. Chad Pinder also performed admirably this week, with a .417/.462/.417 slasher of his own, and Khris Davis continues his assault on the 2018 home run lead at 39 on the year, one ahead of Boston’s J.D. Martinez. After that, Mark Canha had the strongest week for the A’s, with the rest of the lineup snoozing a little through the last two series.

The A’s bullpen has also been money in the bank this week, only surrendering 3 earned runs collectively against Arlington and Minnesota. They would get pressed into extra service as Sean Manaea would be placed on the DL with a shoulder impingement and Chris Bassitt would get a spot start, but only go 4.2 innings. He was the second pitcher this week to log less than 5 IP, while Manaea and Cahill only hit 5 innings in their starts. New additions Familia, Rodney, and Kelley would all make scoreless appearances and pitch between 3 and 4.1 innings on the week while making the A’s front office look good. Phenom closer Blake Trienen and bullpen artist Lou Trivino would each give up a rare run in one of their respective 3 outings, but considering that there has not been a save opportunity this week, the A’s could afford the slight stumbles. Yusmeiro Petit would give up a run this week, but would also give 4.2 innings of effort, the most of any reliever for Oakland. Emilio Pagán is also in the pen, taking Manaea’s spot on the roster, but has not seen MLB action since August 19th.

Oakland comes into Houston looking to knock the Astros off their perch and needing for a sweep to grab sole possession of 1st place for the first time this season.

Astros

Houston arrives back home after a pretty sound week of baseball themselves. Winners of 5 in a row, the Astros have seemingly rebounded after a bit of an ugly series loss against the A’s just last week. Though some could argue that the first game of that series was unduly affected by the replay umps, Houston had been playing listless baseball for a little while before that. However, in what has become a trend for the Astros, the team would suddenly find themselves reinvigorated after a series at Safeco field followed by sweeping the Angels in their own park.

While definitely not as potent as the Athletics, the Astros’ offense has been rocksteady in the last couple of series. Marwin would continue making a case for AL player of the month with an explosive week, slashing .385/.407/.846 with 3 homers (including a back-breaking grand slam against the Angels), 3 doubles, and 10 RBI. Altuve and White would join him at the top of the pile as José would make his triumphant return from the DL and Tyler continues making his case for a permanent starter role. Bregman added to his excellent 2018, leading the team with a .444 OBP this week and popping his 40th double, which ties him with Francisco Lindor for the AL lead. Reddick would come just shy of Bregman’s OPS at .878 while Gurriel was also in on the action with an .843 mark of his own. Maldonado was the only other Astro to have an above-average week with some revenge AB’s at the Big A after coming alive on the road trip. Kemp was unspectacular but steady week with an OBP above .300 while Correa was somewhat down, though he did manage 5 RBI to show some clutch.

Injury Note: Hinch stated after yesterday’s game that he expects Springer will be in the lineup against Oakland after missing the entire week with quad soreness. He would pinch-hit in the final game against the Angels.

The pen would have another week where it was good but not as dominant as it has been at times this year. Osuna would see the most work this week at 4 IP and is looking more like the closer for Houston, though Rondón would snag one of the three save opportunities this week while holding opponents scoreless. Peacock, Pressly, and Harris would also avoid ER’s on their ledgers, though Harris’ role was limited this week at only a single perfect inning of work. Sipp would surrender a run, his second in as many weeks, but would bounce back with strong single-batter appearances including a strikeout of Shohei Ohtani in Anaheim. Smith would also have just a run on his record, but would also allow three inherited runners to score this week after relieving Morton in Seattle. McHugh had his roughest week as a reliever in 2018, giving up 4 ER across just 2.2 innings, with three come from a single swing of the bat against the Mariners.

The Astros will look to push the A’s down and try and open up a more comfortable lead in the division as Oakland has continued to keep pace in spite of a hot week for the good guys.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Brett Anderson, LHP (3-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole, RHP (11-5, 2.73 ERA)

Anderson as been ridiculously good in his last 4 starts for someone who was pretty much a journeyman before returning to Oakland on a 1-year contract this season. His “worst” game in August so far was a 5-inning start where he gave up 2 runs to the Angels, but has held opponents scoreless while pitching at least 7 innings in his three other games. That was not the case in his one start against the Astros this season, where he was pummeled for 9 runs, 7 earned, in just 3 innings. While he does sport a FIP hovering three quarters of a run higher than his ERA, the game against Houston was really his only disaster this season.

Houston counters with Cole, who had his start pushed back to Monday’s game. Gerrit has been on a solid run since early July, only giving up more than 2 ER in two of his last eight starts. That run started with 6 shutout innings against the A’s back on July 9th. Cole has generally been good against Oakland, though they would get to him for 4 in one game and 3 in another. Unlike Anderson Cole’s secondary numbers suggest his ERA is actually slightly higher than it should be, so Gerrit might be in line for another solid start.

This game will all turn on whether or not Anderson can keep up this sudden surge of pitching wizardry, but if the Astros’ offense can bring some road vibes to MMP I expect Cole to have the edge here.

Game 2: Edwin Jackson, RHP (4-3, 2.97 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (13-3, 3.05 ERA)

Jackson makes this start after getting slapped around by the Rangers, dropping 4 runs before being lifted after just 4.1 innings. Before that he had been having a superb month of August and final game of July, having only given up 2 runs in 24.1 innings of work, Those 2 runs would come against the Astros though, who faced him for the only time in 2018 two weeks ago. Edwin’s numbers suggest that the smoke and mirrors may be coming to an end soon with a 4.66 FIP and .230 BABIP.

Morton will make this start after a terrible game against the Mariners where he would get charged for 6 runs after losing command in the sixth inning. Unfortunately, this has been an issue this season, as he will usually come to a point in the game where his command leaves him completely for an inning or two. He had been mostly good in the 6 games before that, though he has yet to recapture his early season dominance. His peripherals suggest he may have a small ways to go before the light at the end of the tunnel, but has nowhere near as far to fall as Jackson.

If Morton can keep his command for a majority of the game then there’s no reason he can’t take this from Jackson, but depending on which version of the pitchers show up this could become a pitcher’s duel or a slugfest.

Game 3: Trevor Cahill, RHP (5-3, 3.44 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (10-10, 3.54 ERA)

Rounding out Oakland’s journeyman pitching staff is Trevor Cahill, who just had his first loss since May even though he has certainly pitched badly enough to earn one since then. He would get hammered for 5 runs in 5 innings by the Twins, the second time in three starts he’s given up 4 or more. Unfortunately those starts would be sandwiched between a 7 inning shutout performance against the Astros. Though they were able to chase him in 3.2 innings the previous time they faced him. Cahill’s numbers show he may actually be having some bad luck with his ERA, so he may be more of a challenge than he appears at first glance.

Meanwhile, Dallas comes into this game after an excellent bounce-back performance against the Angels, where he would mostly cruise through 7 innings of 2-run ball. Unfortunately, he would be bouncing back from a 5-run clubbing by the A’s. It was the second time he’s surrendered at least 5 runs to Oakland, though he would also have an 8 inning, 1-run performance two starts after his first loss to them. Dallas’ numbers don’t suggest any sort of aggressive regression should be on the way at this point in the season.

If Keuchel can bring it like he did in Anaheim he should be able to outperform Cahill, but both pitchers have been up and down this season so hard to say who could have an edge here.

Fun Fact

The A’s are the Astros most evenly matched division opponent record-wise, with a lifetime record against of 58-59. If Houston can win this series it will mark the first time they’ve ever finished a season with a lifetime record over .500 against Oakland and just the second point in time ever, with the first coming earlier this year.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, August 27th @ 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, August 28th @ 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, August 29th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - 95.7 FM The Game / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (59 votes)
  • 53%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (217 votes)
  • 25%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (102 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (24 votes)
402 votes total Vote Now