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Series Preview #48: Arizona Diamondbacks @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (92-54, 1st in AL West) open the final home stand of 2018 with three against the Diamondbacks (77-70, 3rd in NL West)

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Diamondbacks

The D-backs touch down in Houston during an absolutely wretched stretch that has seen them fall perilously close to being out of contention. They’ve lost 5 of their last 6 series, including a couple of 1-3 series losses to the Dodgers and Rockies, but have at least managed to avoid being swept while going 6-14.

Arizona’s offense isn’t quite the juggernaut it was when Houston faced them back in the early goings of the season, but it certainly isn’t easy to dismiss. As per usual, Goldschmidt and Pollock have both been tearing it up his week, though Goldschmidt has been at the top with a .304/.467/.609 slash line to go with a homer, 2 2B, and 1 3B. Pollock was right behind with a .942 OPS of his own as well as a triple and a homer.

Ketel Marte would also have himself a week, getting on base at a .429 clip while logging a triple of his own. Beyond that Alex Avila would probably have the best week with an OPS over 1.000, but as a catcher he would only play in 4 games. No other batter with a significant number of AB would turn in a dominant performance, though David Peralta and Nick Ahmed would both manage decent weeks.

Daniel Descalso has been having a good year even with the cold week at 3rd base, sporting a low average coupled with a good OBP and some pop. Though Arizona definitely has solid contributors such as Nick Ahmed and Steven Souza Jr., there isn’t much of a threat currently in their lineup beyond those names.

Arizona’s bullpen has had a rough week, having to cover for a short start and a spot start while giving up 28 ER as a group in their last 7 games. Matt Koch would make that spot start, going 3 innings and giving up 4 runs. The only relievers with spotless ledgers for the week are Brad Ziegler and Jimmie Sherfy. Ziegler was a mid-season pickup from Miami for the D-backs and he’s had a good season out of the pen. Sherfy, on the other hand, has seen most of his time in AAA this season, though he was up earlier in 2018 and has yet to surrender a run in 5 IP in September.

On the year, Yoshihisa Hirano is having a breakout year in his first MLB season, and is sitting at 62.2 IP with a 2.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 55 SO, and 20 BB. T.J. McFarland is probably the most prolific reliever for Arizona, with a 2.00 ERA in 72 IP, and is also more of a 1-inning guy, though he has gone a little longer before. Andrew Chafin has probably had the third best year, numbers-wise, but is more of a lefty specialist, similar to Sipp.

Arizona has a few more arms with decent to good numbers, but almost no one with significant time this season and a respectable ERA. Things are not helped by the fact that the back-end of the pen has been in a bit of flux. Archie Bradley, a big part of the D-backs postseason push last year, has struggled in September, as has Brad Boxberger, who was recently removed from his closer role.

Arizona will need to make something happen in this series if they hope to compete for a playoff spot, so expect them to play every game like its their last.

Astros

Houston arrives home after a very successful road trip, winning 5 of 6 games and sweeping the Tigers in Comerica Park. That Astros’ fortunes have been almost the opposite of the D-backs, winning 4 of their last 5 series including 2 series sweeps in that time. Even so, they return to MMP like how they left it, at 3.5 games up in the division.

Mostly thanks to an 0-for-11 drought, Bregman would be supplanted for best week in the last 3 games by Tyler White. White is now slashing .368/.480/.737 with a couple of doubles, a triple, and a home run to go with 8 RBI on the week. That’s not to say that Bregman has been a slouch with his own .261/.393/.522 slash line in that fame, including reaching the milestone of 50 2B, 100 RBI, and 100 R on the year in the final Detroit game.

Altuve would show signs of life at the plate this week, something that had been in surprisingly short supply until recently, sporting an .899 OPS on the road trip. Kemp was also impressive, though he would only see 7 AB this week he would have 5 hits in those appearances. McCann and Maldanado would both continue to produce out of the C spot in the lineup, though Maldanado saw a majority of AB this week.

Gurriel and Springer would both get on base at a good rate at least, though they didn’t have much in the way of power numbers. Marwin was the only other Astro to come close to a decent week, though that was mainly due to his power numbers.

Meanwhile, Houston’s bullpen would also reflect the Astros’ success, with really only Rondón’s game-losing run in Boston being the only blemish. Osuna and McHugh were the only other pitchers to log a run, but each only had 1 on the week in total. Osuna would notch 4 out of 4 save opportunities this week, and is very quickly establishing himself as an efficient and effective closer for Houston.

Pressly would log his first save with the Astros in just his second opportunity ever and continues to earn trust. Smith as well, who would have a perfect 2 innings this week. Harris would appear for clean inning this week while Sipp would face only 2 batters, striking out both to escape a bases loaded jam in Boston.

Josh James was the biggest story after that, complicating the playoff bullpen picture with one dominant and another decent outing in Boston and Detroit. Though he would give up a 2-run homer in Detroit, he would look very impressive, throwing gas and blowing the doors off the hitters he faced.

Houston enters the home stretch in a very good position to lock down the division, so long at they can keep winning series.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Robbie Ray, LHP (5-2, 4.18 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel, LHP (11-10, 3.59 ERA)

Ray will make this start after a string of 6 games where he’s had mostly good results, though he has only logged more than 5 IP in two of those. Ray would struggle at the beginning of the season, which is a big part of that high ERA, but he also walks a ton of hitters and has given up a good number of homers. His one saving grace this year has been an 11.85 K/9, but he has definitely fallen off from his performance last season.

Houston counters with Keuchel, who got slapped around for 5 runs in Boston mostly thanks to a 3-run mistake pitch to J.D. Martinez. This would mark just the second time that Dallas would give up more than 3 runs since the ASB, with the other incident being another 5-run affair against Oakland. Keuchel has not matched up with Arizona since 2016, but has historically done well when facing them at home.

If Dallas can have a good bounce back game then he should be up for the challenge, but Ray has been pitching quite well recently so hard to say who has a better chance.

Game 2: Zack Godley, RHP (14-9, 4.67 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton, RHP (14-3, 3.15 ERA)

Godley has been having a rough go of it lately, having given up 21 ER in his last 5 starts, even with the middle one of those being a 7.2 IP 1-run win against SF. He would only go 4 innings against Colorado his last time out before getting relieved, giving up 5 in that game. Though Godley has certainly had strong stretches this year, there hasn’t been as much to get excited about as there has been previously. This will be his first career start against the Astros.

Morton comes into this game after a start against Boston where he would scatter 7 hits across 5 innings while allowing a couple of runs. Other than a 6-run hiccup against Seattle in August, Charlie has been mostly cruising through the second half minus some occasional control issues. He would have those issues in the first inning when he faced the Diamondbacks back in May, but would grind out 5 innings in that game, only giving up 3 runs.

If Godley continues to wobble Houston’s potent offense should be able to make him pay, and with Morton showing better command as of late he certainly would seem to have the edge here.

Game 3: Zack Greinke, RHP (14-9, 3.11 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander, RHP (15-9, 2.72 ERA)

Greinke has been having a pretty decent to good second half, coming off of a 3-run outing against Colorado where he would go a solid 6.2 innings. While Greinke has definitely shown himself to be hittable at times this season, he’s also had good, long stretches of success. He did hold Houston to just a single run when they last faced him, but was chased after 5.2 innings in that start.

Verlander takes the mound after an emotional start in Detroit where his time with the Tigers was commemorated. JV would properly salute the crowd and their importance before firing off 7 innings of 2-run ball and taking his 15th win of the season. Verlander would take the tough-luck loss the last time he faced Arizona in spite of only giving up 2 runs, 1 earned, in 6 innings.

Though Verlander has had the more consistent season, I wouldn’t rule out a good old-fashioned pitcher’s duel in this one.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, September 14th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: D-backs - ESPN Pheonix 620, KHOV 105.1 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Diamondbacks - FA-A / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 2: Saturday, September 15th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: D-backs - 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station, KHOV 105.1 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: D-backs - FS-A / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB.TV

Game 3: Sunday, September 16th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: D-backs - ESPN Pheonix 620, KHOV 105.1 / Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Diamondbacks - FA-A / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / TBS, TBS (out-of-market only) / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 29%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (72 votes)
  • 65%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (158 votes)
  • 4%
    Diamondbacks Win 2-1
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    Diamondbacks Sweep 3-0
    (1 vote)
242 votes total Vote Now