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Series Preview #47: Houston Astros @ Detroit Tigers

The Astros (89-54, 1st in AL West) close out their penultimate road trip with three against the Tigers (59-84, 3rd in AL Central)

Houston Astros v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Recency Bias


The Astros arrive in the Motor City after a late night affair in Boston that had the feel of a nail-biting October match up. Though Houston would ultimately lose the match thanks to the heroics of Mitch Moreland and the MLB Replay team in NY, it was just the Astros’ first loss in 8 tries. It was also Houston’s 6th straight undefeated series as the team really appears to be building a head of steam while heading into a soft part of the schedule to end the season.

Bregman continues to set the world on notice with another week of incredible baseball. He has slashed .476/.593/1.190 with 3 HR, 2 2B, and 6 BB with only 2 K’s in 21 AB. Just an incredible week. Gurriel, while not quite as ridiculous as Bregman, has also had himself a week, riding a 6 game hit streak to go with a double, a homer, and 6 RBI.

At the same time Springer and White have both been performing at a high level in the last couple of series. White has been bringing the power numbers, popping off with 2 doubles and a triple, and has been knocking in some clutch hits at the plate while making a serious case for a postseason spot. Springer is doing the same but with less power, turning in an .852 OPS for the week and continuing to improve since coming out of a prolonged slump.

Altuve has also shown life after a slump, starting to hit more consistently and even knocking a homer in last night’s game against the Red Sox. Marwin would also send one out of Fenway in that game, but hasn’t seen much time this week thanks to an oblique injury. The catching platoon would both turn in fantastic performances as well, but the rest of the lineup hasn’t been much of a factor.

Houston’s bullpen has had itself a rather fine little week, minus a few hiccups. Osuna would go 3 for 3 in save opportunities, but did give up a run to Boston in one of those. Rondón would also give up a run in the final game against the Sox, the game-winner, but that was after bridging to the 8th a couple of nights before. McHugh would look a little shaky as well, having trouble finishing off Boston’s potent lineup, but still appears to be locking down his trusted mid to 7th inning role.

Josh James would impress out of the pen this week, twirling 2.2 innings of 1-hit ball against the Red Sox and looking very comfortable doing so. Sipp, Pressly and Smith would also join him as the most solid looking relievers to appear in the Boston series. While Pressly and Smith filled more traditional roles, Sipp came in as a lefty specialist, getting two huge outs with the bases loaded at one point.

Hinch seems to be locking the pen down for October and this series shows where his thinking is headed as far as roles and which weapons he’ll bring to the postseason. The strongest contender for next month’s bullpen who did not appear in the Boston series was Peacock, but you could easily see him slotting into Josh James’ spot from this past weekend.

Houston will try to continue taking care of their own business as the A’s inched a game closer thanks to a sweep of the useless Rangers, who apparently can’t do us even one small favor.


The Tigers will welcome the Astros to Detroit after a week of not-terrible baseball where they would win series against the lowly White Sox as well as the contending Cardinals. The series against the Sox would feature a couple of blowout wins to end the series followed by two tense walk-off wins against St. Louis. This all comes in what is a lost season for Detroit, who is stumbling to the 2018 finish line with an eye more towards the future than the past.

Jeimer Candelario has been head of the class for Detroit’s lineup this week, going 8 for 26 with 5 runs, 2 HR, and 3 BB. Victor Reyes joins him with a much smaller sample size, only starting three games this last week and making the most of his opportunity with a .455/.455/.636 slash line in 11 AB. Rookie C Grayson Greiner would also shine in a limited role this week with 2 games behind the dish.

Niko Goodrum and Nicholas Castellanos have both had solid weeks for Detroit, each contributing with an OBP north of .425 to go with 4 and 5 runs, respectively. Ronny Rodriguez was the only other player to notch an OPS over .800, but that was mainly due to a couple of doubles as his OBP was well below .300. Mikie Mahtook rounds out the batters for Detroit with at least a respectable OPS, but that is an upgrade from his usual numbers and due more to a couple of homers.

As for the season, really only Jim Adduci has been getting on base at a decent clip when looking at the rest of the Tigers’ batters. Detroit’s lineup is suffering somewhat with the loss of Miguel Cabrera to injury and Leonys Martin to trade, removing some of the scarier threats that the Tigers had to offer.

The Tigers’ pen doesn’t really have much to look at, though there are a few standout arms. With over 80 IP, Blaine Hardy has been the workhorse for Detroit, sporting a 3.81 ERA and 13 saves in those frames. Shane Green is the Tigers’ regular closer though, with 28 saves of his own and a 4.87 ERA that is partially thanks to a terrible September. Victor Alcántara has probably been one of the Tigers’ better relievers, going by numbers, but has only worked 24.2 innings in the majors this year.

Alex Wilson and Louis Coleman are the only other pitchers in Detroit’s bullpen with an ERA below 4 and more than 45 innings on the year. Wilson has been pitching well in recent days, in fact he hasn’t given up a run since mid-August, while Coleman has been a little up-and-down with a season performance you can expect from a mid-tier reliever.

Beyond that the pitching numbers don’t inspire much hope from the Detroit faithful. Drew VerHagen, Joe Jiménez, and Buck Farmer round out the regulars with the most innings for the Tigers. They all have ERAs ranging from the mid to upper fours, so not exactly nailing down opposing lineups but at least eating up outs. Sandy Baez is probably the most intriguing piece left in Detroit’s pen as a 24 year old rookie who has yet to give up a run in just 7.1 innings of work at the MLB level, though 4.1 of those came in his debut back in June.

Detroit is rebuilding so while I’m sure they’ll put up a fight, one can probably expect that they’ll be more concerned with getting a look at future talent that can help the MLB club than their place in the standings.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Justin Verlander, RHP (14-9, 2.73 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano, LHP (4-9, 4.90 ERA)

Verlander will make his first start as a visiting pitcher in Comerica Park after a strong 7 inning showing against Minnesota. It would be quite a welcome sight as Verlander has been grinding through some of his recent starts, though he has still managed to keep opposing teams from blowing him out and the strikeout numbers are still there. JV’s first start against Detroit earlier this year did not go well as he would give up 6 runs, 5 earned, on 4 home runs in what Justin described as one of the weirdest starts of his career.

Meanwhile, the Tigers will trot out old friend Francisco Liriano, who last pitched for the Astros in Game 7 of last year’s WS. Liriano started the year by turning some heads and generating whispers as possible trade bait for the rebuilding Tigers. That would change after a return from the DL in June, after which he would show a more Liriano-esque form. This will be his fist taste of action against the Astros since leaving them in the offseason.

Verlander should have no problem logging a better line than Liriano this game, assuming he’s shaken off whatever was going on in his previous start against Detroit.

Game 2: Framber Valdez, LHP (3-1, 1.37 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmerman, RHP (7-6, 4.03 ERA)

Valdez would continue the excellent start to his MLB career his last time out, throwing 5.1 innings of 1-hit ball against the Twins in just his 4th game. Valdez has looked good thanks to a devastating breaking ball but does struggle with walks, having allowed at least 3 free passes in all 3 of his starts this year. While he has been able to wiggle out of those situations, he’ll need to keep runners off the base paths if he wants to continue with a low ERA.

Zimmerman makes this start at the end of an up-and-down season marred with trips to the DL and more than a few clunkers. He would show flashes of his former dominance at times this season, but has not been able to sustain success. This will be Zimmerman’s first start against Houston in 2018 and his first time ever facing them outside of Minute Maid Park. He owns a 3.09 ERA lifetime against the ‘Stros, but those numbers have trended downward for him in the last couple of years.

Framber has been impressive but is still bit of an unknown quantity at the MLB level, so hard to say that he’ll definitely have the advantage over Zimmerman here.

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (13-5, 2.86 ERA) vs. Daniel Norris, LHP (0-3, 5.47 ERA)

Cole would add another excellent start to his 2018 campaign in his last game against Boston, battling some early command issues to finish a strong 6 innings of 2-run ball. He would strikeout 8 in that game and continues to seesaw with Verlander for AL lead in K’s. Cole would grind a little in his last start against Detroit, only giving up 1 run in 5.1 innings of work, but also walking 4 to create a little more leverage than necessary.

The Tigers counter with Daniel Norris, who just recently returned from successful groin surgery. He has been somewhat ho-hum in those two games, only working limited innings. He had worked mostly as a long-man out of the pen with a couple of spot starts back in April before he went back on the DL, and has yet to log an appearance where he hasn’t surrendered at least a run. He does have strikeout stuff though, sporting an 11.68 K/9.

Cole should almost definitely have the edge here against Norris.

Fun Fact

Altuve was safe.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, September 10th @ 5:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D / MLB.TV

Game 2: Tuesday, September 11th @ 5:40 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D / MLB.TV

Game 3: Sunday, September 12th @ 12:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D / MLB.TV


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (63 votes)
  • 37%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (44 votes)
  • 5%
    Tigers Win 2-1
    (6 votes)
  • 3%
    Tigers Sweep 3-0
    (4 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now