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2019 Series Preview #3: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (2-5, 4th in AL West) open Minute Maid Park for 2019 with three games against the A’s (6-4, 3rd in AL West)

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

Recency Bias

Athletics

The A’s roll into town having had a pretty good week. After knocking off the Angels they would slap around the defending WS champion Red Sox to take 3 out of 4 and close out a 6-2 week. Of course, this came after getting mini-swept by the Mariners out in Japan to technically open the season, but that seems almost like a distant memory at this point.

Including all 10 of the games on the young season, 3B Matt Chapman has been one of the more consistent bats in the lineup, going 10-for-33 with 5 walks and only 4 strikeouts to start the season. While all of that has added up to an 1.061 OPS, the big story has been Khris Davis’ power as he has launched 5 bombs in 9 hits, and naturally leads the team at 10 RBI.

Marcus Semien has probably been the most prolific hitter after those two with a .333/.429/.472 slash line across 42 plate appearances. He’s also shown great plate discipline to star the season, walking 6 times while only punching out in 5 of those appearances. Stephen Piscotty was the hero in yesterday’s game against the Sox, going 4-for-4 while belting a 3-run homer to help lift the team to a series win.

CF Mark Canha has had the next best start to the season with an .806 OPS, though Kendrys Morales has at least gotten on base at a .353 clip. Things get a little sparse after that, though LF Chad Pinder has been serviceable in a small sample size of 6 games. Special note is former Astro farmhand Ramón Laureano who has been throwing lasers from the outfield to pick runners of the bases, but has been rather putrid at the plate, slashing .176/.200/.353 with 14(!) K’s in 35 PA.

Meanwhile, the A’s bullpen has also been somewhat impressive in the first ten games of the season, with ace closer Blake Treinen picking up where he left off in 2018. He’s only surrendered 2 hits with 2 walks and struck out 8 in 6.2 innings of work, successfully converting all 3 of his save opportunities. But Lou Trivino has actually been better across the same number of innings, only giving up 1 hit and 1 walk and striking out 9, making for a pretty scary two-headed monster at the back-end of the bullpen.

The only other reliever to see at least 6 innings to start the season has been J.B. Wendelken, who managed that across 4 games. He did give up a couple of runs, but one of those was unearned and he avoided walking anyone while striking out 6. After that Liam Hendriks has seen the most work at 5.1 IP, and also only gave up a single earned run. Yusmeiro Petit has also been good, keeping runs off the board so far in 2019, but that’s in only 1.1 IP.

The bullpen becomes decidedly less scary after that based on stats so far this season, with Joakim Soria and Fernando Rodney seeing the most use, though they sport a 9.00 and 10.38 ERA, respectively. Ryan Dull rounds out the pen, but his numbers are pretty ghastly so far with 3 runs surrendered in just 0.2 innings of work.

The A’s will look to build up some momentum as the head out on an 8-game road trip for the first time since returning from Japan.

Astros

The Astros return to Houston after a real bummer of a road trip to open the season. An anemic offense that had difficulty finding the clutch hit was the theme for the 2-5 trip, which was capped off by a shutout at the hands of the in-state rival Rangers. While plenty will cite suspect umpiring, and rightfully so, the Astros bats have been the main culprit for the slow start to the season.

It hasn’t all been doom and gloom as Springer has opened the season with an assault on pitching out of the top of the lineup. Slashing .308/.387/.538 in the opening road trip, he’s also launched a couple of bombs while taking 4 walks and driving in 5. Correa has also hit the ground running after returning from an injury that kept him sidelined through the first three games. In spite of a hit-less showing in his first game back, he still has a .908 OPS with 5 hits in 15 AB’s, including 3 doubles.

Jake has had a fine start to the season as well, with the best slash line of any of the Astros at .364/.417/.636, but didn’t see much play time in Arlington with only a single game under his belt in the past 4 days. After that Reddick has probably been the best hitter so far this week, but his power hasn’t exactly been on display with just 6 singles in 17 plate appearances.

Unfortunately the hits begin to thin out once you get past those players, though White, Bregman, Gurriel, and Chirinos have all managed to at least get on base with a .300 or higher OBP. White has actually been one of the better Astros in that department at .353, though there is certainly a desire for a little more power from someone who is expected to be the primary DH in 2019.

As for the pitching, the bullpen has managed to continue its excellent run except for a couple of hiccups that would come in the Rangers series. Osuna and Rondón have been perfect to start the season, with each pitching just a couple of innings, though Rondón is drawing the lower leverage appearances. Pressly also had a good appearance in the opening game of the last series, setting 4 batters in a row down in relief of Peacock.

James and Valdez would also see action in the most recent series. Though each of them gave up runs, James looked the better of the two across his frames, only surrendering a garbage homer to Mazara and walking one besides. Valdez looked decidedly shaky in his season debut, walking one and allowing 3 hits as well as 2 earned run across his couple of frames.

The Astros will look to right the ship on this home stand and will need to start racking up some W’s just to climb back to .500, and it may not be an easy task against an Oakland team that is looking a little beefy to start the season.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Frankie Montas, RHP (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Collin McHugh, RHP (0-1, 3.60 ERA)

Montas has been the picture of a pitcher who can throw heat but lacks control and movement, which has held him back from obtaining sustained success. While his fastball sits in the upper 90’s, it has always been somewhat flat and straight, making it easy to turn around for hit. In an effort to combat that, he has worked to add a slider and splitter, which was on display in his 6 innings of work against the Angels in his one start this year, where he would earn the win after giving up just one run on 3 hits to go with 6 punchouts.

Though McHugh wasn’t exactly dominant in his first start of the season, he was able to snap off some filthy curve balls and hold the Rays to just 2 runs across 5 innings. He was also able to punch out 9, which is pretty good for someone who’s not known for setting batters down on K’s. After a somewhat terrible Spring, Collin looks to slot in nicely in his return to the rotation if he can continue to perform at the same level as his first start.

While Montas had the better start in his one game, McHugh has traditionally been a better pitcher and should have the edge here based on that alone.

Game 2: Aaron Brooks, RHP (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. Wade Miley, LHP (0-1, 4.50 ERA)

Aaron Brooks turned a few heads when he came out firing against the Red Sox in his first start of the season, throwing 6 shutout innings of 2-hit ball. He managed 6 K’s in that time and only walked 1, lending credence to the idea that Oakland can patch together a no-name rotation that can hang with the best of them. His past performance at the MLB level has certainly not suggested that he can continue this, but it’s hard to argue with the success of his first 2019 start.

Houston counters with Wade Miley, who will make his first home start in an Astros uniform. His last start against the Rays didn’t set the world on fire as he would give up 3 runs across 6 innings, but it wasn’t terrible for a #4 starter. While he did walk the tightrope a little by spreading 8 hits, he also didn’t give out any free passes while striking out 4 Rays. After a solid Spring though, we’ll see if he can impress in front of a home crowd.

If Brooks can replicate his first start then he should have the advantage here, but if he returns to his pre-2019 form then the game should go Miley’s way.

Game 3: Mike Fiers, RHP (2-1, 3.00 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock (1-0, 1.35 ERA)

Old Friend Mike Fiers starts the season as Oakland’s #1 starter after reinvigorating his career in 2018, and has stepped up to the role nicely in his last two games. His first start against Seattle was not the best though, as he was run out after 3 innings and 5 ER. He settled down after that though, twirling 6 innings of shutout ball in each of his last two starts. He hasn’t exactly been a strikeout machine though, and a 4.13 FIP certainly suggests that he might be more gettable than it seems.

Meanwhile, Peacock comes in after a superb performance where he would hold the Rangers to just 2 hits and a single run across 6.2 innings. This comes after he won the #5 starter position thanks to an excellent Spring Training. Peacock has shown value throughout his career as a pitcher able to seamlessly move back and forth from the pen to the rotation and looks to once more anchor the rotation in 2019.

I feel like Peacock is simply the superior pitcher here and will keep the good times rolling as he takes on Fiers.

Fun Fact

The Astros are 11-8 during the first home game of the regular season since opening Minute Maid Park. They haven’t lost their first home game of the season since 2012, which was their last year in the NL.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, April 5th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - KTRB 860 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Saturday, April 6th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - KTRB 860 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Game 3: Sunday, April 7th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - KTRB 860 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (19 votes)
  • 41%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (46 votes)
  • 28%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (31 votes)
  • 12%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (14 votes)
110 votes total Vote Now