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Series Preview #52: Houston Astros @ Baltimore Orioles

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The Astros (100-58, AL West Division Champs) close the door on the 2018 regular season with 4 against the Orioles (45-112, AL East Division Participants)

MLB: Houston Astros at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston arrives in Charm City on the tail end of a spectacular end to the regular season. Since getting challenged by the A’s to hold onto the division the Astros have picked it up a gear and are now sitting at 18-5 for the month of September. This includes going 5-1 in the last two series with a 5 game win streak before a AAA lineup dropped the finale in Toronto.

Gurriel would continue to be red-hot in the Toronto series to cap a week where he would win AL Player of the Week honors. He is currently riding a 12-game hit streak while slashing a godly .500/.500/.885 on the week with 3 bombs and a double. After that Bregma has looked the hottest since starting to come alive near the end of the Angels series and finding his stroke again in Toronto, finally logging his 101st and 102nd RBI of the season with a 2-run blast.

Beyond that the biggest contributions have come from both Marisnick and Gattis in limited AB. Gattis has looked a little more dangerous at the plate, which is a good sign after some time off with the emergence of Tyler White. Marisnick has also been a vast improvement over his early season form lately and looks primed to join the team for October with his recent performance.

Altuve and Springer have both been pretty solid if not exactly tearing it up this past week, while McCann has made the most of his chances in the couple of games he started this week. Reddick and White would maintain a decent OBP, but after that things were not exactly gangbusters for the ‘Stros. Except, that is, for Myles Straw, who had a 2-for-3 day in his first ever MLB start.

As for the Astros bullpen, after a pretty rocky week they seem to have once more settled down, mostly cruising through the Toronto series. The only blemish during the Toronto series was Devo’s ugly first where he would surrender a 2-run home run, and a home run off of Cionel Pérez in the 5th. Perez actually looked pretty good for the most part in his 3 innings of work, which was a good sign after a bit of a shaky outing against the Angels.

Another encouraging sign was Rondón, who claimed before the game that he had identified a flaw in his delivery and had worked to correct it. It looked like it might be working with a 1-2-3 inning at the Rogers Centre. Smith would also return to the mound in the Toronto series with a clean 0.2 innings, but he would give up a hit in that outing and yield to Harris to finish the inning.

Speaking of Harris, he has looked pretty sharp on the mound in recent weeks, though it remains to be seen how much Hinch trusts him since he’s not using him in traditional high-leverage roles. After that, everything has been smooth sailing for the pen, with mostly clean innings to go around.

The Astros may have wrapped up the division but several players have expressed an interest in setting the franchise record for wins, currently sitting at 102, and will need to go 3-1 in Baltimore to get it done.

Orioles

Baltimore welcomes the Astros to town after a predictably awful month of September to wrap up a historically awful 2018. They’ve only won back to back games twice in the second half during two separate 3 game winning streaks, but have spent more time on the wrong side of the win-loss column. They did just pull off a pretty beefy 10-3 win over the Red Sox in the second game of a doubleheader yesterday, but that was after getting the stuffing beat out of them for 19 runs in game 1.

This week has featured a few hot players for the Orioles though, who have been at least scoring runs with 33 in the last 6 games. Renato Núñez turned in the strongest offensive performance with a .474/.450/.1.000 slash line in 19 AB with a double and 3 homers. Trey Mancini has also been rock solid at the plate in the last two series with a .393 OBP to go with 1 homer, a triple, and 2 doubles.

September call up and rookie DJ Stewart has also had a somewhat good week at the plate, though that was mostly driven by a hot series against the Yankees followed by a pretty quiet Boston series. Joey Rickard and Tim Beckham were the other regulars on the team who were able to get it done at a high level with regular AB this week, though catching platoon Caleb Joseph and Austin Wynns contributed quite well with only 24 AB between them.

Old friend Jonathan Villar, who came over in the Schoop deal from the Brewers earlier in the season, as well as Adam Jones are a couple of bats who should at least be respected in the lineup, but haven’t shown too much at the plate recently. After that the talent in Baltimore’s lineup tends to thin out a bit.

The Oriole’s bullpen is a hot mess at the moment thanks to doubleheaders and poorly performing starters. This is part of an ongoing pattern as the O’s starting rotation has been in shambles with Cobb recently going down for the rest of the year and fill-in Yefry Ramirez needing to miss a start due to a thumb injury. They would have two spot starts yesterday with Jimmy Yacabonis doing well in his 3.1 innings and Ryan Meisinger imploding for 5 runs in his 0.1 IP.

It hasn’t been all terrible as Sean Gilmartin has actually been something of a revelation out of the pen since joining the team in August, but has only seen 25 IP in that time. July call up and rookie Paul Fry has been about as good and has a little more experience with 34.2 MLB innings under his belt. Cody Carroll rounds out the more inexperienced core of the O’s bullpen, and with a 9.56 ERA in 16 total IP, he will probably not be pitching too much high leverage.

The more reliable long term players that you’re likely to see this week include Miguel Castro, Mike Wright Jr., Mychal Givens, and Tanner Scott. Castro and Wright Jr. see the most work out of the pen with over 80 IP each, but both have ERAs better suited for mop-up duties than high-leverage.

The Orioles are just running out the clock here as the season winds down since there’s not much to look forward to for them but golf, the probable winter meeting fire sale, and next year’s #1 draft pick.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Gerrit Cole, RHP (15-5, 2.92 ERA) vs. David Hess, RHP (3-10, 5.14 ERA)

Cole makes his final regular season start after a decent string of games where he wasn’t exactly dominating but has done pretty well. He would go 7 innings in his last start while giving up 3 runs, but struck out 12 without walking anyone. This marked his 7th double-digit strikeout game of the season and allowed him to move once more in control of the AL strikeout lead. This will be the first time in his career that Cole has faced off against Baltimore.

Hess was thrust into service for the Orioles back in May and has had some decent to even dominant outings, but has mostly played from behind this season. His recent outings may have been tainted by some poor defense, however, with 6 of the runs in his last 4 games being unearned. There were 17 of those runs though, so it wasn’t all bad defense. As bad as he’s been, Hess’ FIP is actually still more than a half a run higher than his ERA, suggesting it could be worse.

Hard to see how Cole would be the lesser pitcher here, but he may not go deep if AJ decides to rest him before the postseason.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (16-9, 2.60 ERA) vs. Yefry Ramirez, RHP (1-7, 6.07 ERA)

Verlander will have a chance to add to his Cy Young resume with this final start, but it’s unclear how deep AJ will let his apparent ALDS Game 1 starter go. Verlander had another Angel-crushing start his last time out, downing the halos for 6 innings without giving up a run. It was his fourth dominant outing in a row as he’s begun to turn it up in September the same way he did last season. His only start against Baltimor this year was his second, and he actually looked a little shaky, only going 5.2 innings while giving up 4 runs.

Yefry will make this start after a truncated one his last time out where he would get rocked for 5 runs in 3.2 IP. That sort of performance had been mostly par for the course as far as Ramirez goes when he makes his starts, though he has been shuffled back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. He would get scratched from his previous start thanks to a thumb injury but seems to be in line to make this start according to the Oriole’s beat reporter. This will be his first career start against the Astros.

Like Cole this will depend on how deep into the game Hinch allows Verlander, but either way his stats are superior in every way to Ramirez.

Game 3: Dallas Keuchel, LHP (12-11, 3.75 ERA) vs. TBD

As per Jake Kaplan, Keuchel will be making this start but will likely only go between 2 to 4 innings. His last time out wasn’t exactly inspiring as he would only go 5 innings against Toronto, giving up 3 ER and walking 3 in the process. Dallas has not looked super sharp recently but does continue to put out mostly reliable starts even with the odd clunker thrown in there. I expect he has shortened his leash somewhat in October due to it.

Baltimore has not announced the starter for this game but there’s a chance it could be Dylan Bundy, who has had a pretty frustrating season in 2018. His ERA sits at 5.49 mostly thanks to 2.88 BB/9 and 2.12 HR/9 rates. It’s been over three months since the last time that Bundy has pitched a game that he didn’t surrender at least 2 runs, and has given up a homer in all but 2 of those.

Even if wobbly Keuchel shows up here he should be better than either Bundy or the bullpen.

Game 4: TBD vs TBD

Again, as per Jake Kaplan, Houston is hoping that Morton will make this start, but that will depend on whether or not his wife Cindy has given birth to their 4th child by then. I’m sure Houston would like to get Charlie a start before the postseason to keep him fresh, but if not then AJ has said that Josh James will be available to start. Morton would have plenty of rest after pitching only 1 innings his last time out against LA while the club is probably eager to give James at least one more look before October.

Unfortunately I have no information on who will make this start for Baltimore, but it will most likely be a bullpen day if the previous one was not, or maybe both will be. Yacobis and Meisinger are the most likely spot start candidates since they started both games of the doubleheader yesterday.

Considering Astros pitchers have been light years ahead of Baltimore’s staff I’m going to give them the edge on this one regardless of who starts.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, September 27th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - 105.7 The Fan
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN / MLB.TV

Game 2: Friday, September 28th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - 105.7 The Fan
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN / MLB.TV

Game 3: Saturday, September 29th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - 105.7 The Fan
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN / MLB.TV

Game 4: Sunday, September 30th @ 2:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - 105.7 The Fan
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN / MLB.TV

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (28 votes)
  • 58%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (54 votes)
  • 9%
    Series Split 2-2
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Orioles Win 3-1
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Orioles Sweep 4-0
    (2 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now