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2019 Series Preview #6: Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics

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The Astros (11-5, 2nd in AL West) roll down the coast to play two against the A’s (10-9, 4th in AL West)

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros stroll into the Bay after what I would describe as a somewhat successful week. The two big names at the top of the rotation managed to shut down one of the hottest offenses in baseball while the team managed to win a couple of tight ones after blowing out the M’s bullpen in game 1. A mostly airtight Astros pen did its job as well and now the Astros sit on a nine-game winning streak and only a game out of first place in the West.

Of course you have to give big credit to Altuve, who exploded all over Yankees and Mariners pitching this week. In the past week alone he’s launched six bombs, including a grand slam, while driving in 10 runs during a 10-for-25 tear. Though not quite at the same level, Correa has also been riding high this week, slashing .381/.500/.619 in the last two series.

Brantley and Gurriel have also had pretty good week, with Gurriel breaking open the first game against Seattle with his own grand slam. But it’s not just the big boys as the Astros have also been getting a lot of value out of the bottom of the lineup this week. Marisnick, Chirinos, and Diaz have all delivered key hits in limited duty, with Aledmys delivering what would be the game winning home run in Sunday’s finale against the M’s. Kemp has also had a nice week in very limited duty, with either hits or walks that have managed to keep big innings alive for the Astros.

After that things get a little thin. Springer has had some big hits, including a 2-run homer in Seattle, and is getting on base at a rate of .296, but he’s not producing on a regular basis. Meanwhile, just as he was heating up, Bregman has been slowed slightly by his hamstring injury, but will have a chance to get back on track in Oakland.

As for the bullpen, except for Josh James’ hiccup against the Yankees it has mostly been on point in the past two series. Devo and Peacock were the only other two relievers to give up any runs, and for Peacock one of them came on an odd play where the umpire was hit by a pitch and Dee Gordon managed to get all the way home from second. Other than that he had actually pitched quite well that game with 7 K’s in just 3.1 IP.

Meanwhile, Osuna and Pressly have both turned it up a notch in the late innings. Osuna picked up five saves this week while Pressly grabbed the other one. They both would work 4.1 total innings during that span, helping to lock down the winning streak.

Harris and Rondón seem to be gaining AJ’s confidence as they have appeared in a few scoreless innings with some high leverage situations on the line. Devo has also been pitching well, but continues to create some sticky situations for himself on the base paths.

The Astros will look to keep the good times going and head hopefully head off to Arlington with at least a share of 1st place in the AL West.

Athletics

As for the A’s, they return to California after what was 18 straight games to open the season, until last Saturday’s game was rained out in Arlington, and their first off day yesterday. They’ve been doing well since we last saw them on the tail end of a sweep in Houston, having since been beating up on opposing pitching. In 6 games against the Orioles and Rangers they’ve managed to push 50 runs across the plate while going 4-2.

Of course a big party of that power is Khris Davis, who has mashed 5 homers to bring his total on the season to 10. He’s hardly the only one popping off though as Marcus Semien, Jurickson Profar, and Matt Chapman are all sporting pretty similar stat lines with an OPS between 1.144 and 1.154 for all three. The group of three has also all hit 2 homers and struck out 3 times a piece this last week.

After that Josh Phegley and Chad Pinder have been the most prolific, with Pinder in particular getting on base at a strong clip. Phegley has been the bigger power threat though, with a couple homers under his belt versus Pinder’s one. There’s also been decent production from Kendrys Morales and Mark Canha in a more limited role.

Robbie Grossman has not been the thorn in the side of other teams he’s faced since he was in MMP, but he has been able to get on base with a .400 OBP. After that the bats really begin to cool off, though it should be mentioned that Ramon Laureano has been improving his AB’s, though he’s not exactly tearing it up in the box.

As for the pen it’s been the same story you’ve seen with Treinen and Trivino that you’ve seen all season except for their last game in Houston. Trienen has had himself a couple of drama-free innings for a couple of saves while Trivino has also kept runners off the board, but has surrendered 3 hits. Yusmeiro Petit and Liam Hendricks seem to be getting the ball the most out of the rest of the arms, and have had pretty good weeks themselves.

After that the A’s definitely have a few relievers who are not really holding up their ends of the bargain. Fernando Rodney in particular has been having a rough go of it lately, as did Joakim Soria when he came on for a save opportunity in Arlington.

The bullpen really does seem to rely on getting the ball to Treinen and Trivino to lock down close games. Though there are several reliable arms there with most of them having a decent start to the season. However, there are a couple of arms that have been struggling, with Rodney and Soria both sporting an ERA north of 11.00.

The A’s got a little mojo back after taking 3 of 4 from the Orioles and it hasn’t been their offense that’s been the problem, so expect them to come out trying and slug against the Astros.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Collin McHugh, RHP (2-1, 2.65 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada, RHP (0-1, 4.87 ERA)

McHugh takes the mounds for the Astros after an excellent start to the season, including his last time out where he would hurl 6 innings of 2-run ball against the Yankees. Before that he faced this same Oakland lineup where he would also go 6, but limit the potent A’s offense to just a single run. That one included a pivotal AB against Khris Davids where he struck him out with the bases loaded to end an inning.

The A’s counter with Marco Estrada, who came over from Toronto this past offseason, and had himself a real clunker of an outing his last time out. In just 4 innings he would surrender 6 earned runs on 8 hits with only 3 K’s. This came after some rather pedestrian outings except for a game against the Angels where he would shut them out while throwing 6 innings. As bad as he’s been in some of his outings, a .200 BABIP seems to suggest he’s actually benefiting from a little bit of luck on where these balls are being hit.

I feel like McHugh is gaining steam here and expect he will have the edge over Estrada.

Game 2: Wade Miley, LHP (1-1, 3.45 ERA) vs. Frankie Montas, RHP (2-1, 3.18 ERA)

Miley’s last time out wasn’t exactly his sharpest appearance as he would really struggle through his first inning of work against the Mariners. After more than 40 pitches he would escape only having given up 1 earned run and ended up going just 4 innings with 2 more runs surrendered. He did have a much better appearance against Oakland in his second game of the year though, having gone 5.2 innings of shutout ball in that one while keeping the opposing lineup off balance.

Frankie Montas will oppose him after going up against McHugh in the last meeting between these two teams. Montas has been having a good season in his three games out of the gate, notching two quality starts in those. His start against the Astros was his shortest though, as they would chase him after five innings, with 2 earned runs on his ledger. Montas throws heat and has been doing well, but like Estrada sports a ridiculously below-league-average BABIP at .205.

This one could go either way as Miley has gone back and forth on his control so far this season. But if he can repeat his gritty performance against the A’s it should be a nice pitchers duel.

Fun Fact

And you guys were worried after starting 2-5.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, April 16th @ 9:07 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Athletics - KTRB 860, KIQI 1010
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA

Game 2: Wednesday, April 17th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Athletics - KTRB 860, KIQI 1010
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (78 votes)
  • 49%
    Series Split 1-1
    (76 votes)
  • 0%
    A’s Sweep 2-0
    (1 vote)
155 votes total Vote Now