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2019 Series Preview #14: Houston Astros @ Detroit Tigers

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The Astros (26-15, 1st in AL West) open up a week on the road with three against the Tigers (18-20, 3rd in AL Central)

MLB: Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros will touch down in Detroit after a rather successful homestand that would see them go 6-1, sweep the Rangers, and gain 4.5 games on the division. They did it with authority, obliterating opposing pitching with 48 runs scored across their 6 wins. Of course, 26 of those runs would come in the last two games of the series sweep against the Rangers (tee hee), but the offense has been on a tear for some time now, dating back to the Mexico series. The Astros are now up 6.5 games in the AL West, which is the largest division lead for any team so far in 2019.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

This week has seen Springer soar to new heights on what has already been a very excellent start to 2019. In the last 7 games he’s muscled out a .519/.563/1.148 slash line while crushing 5 home runs and 2 doubles. Two of those long balls came in the finale against the Rangers and put Springer into the AL lead with 15 taters and 2nd overall just behind Christian Yelich’s 16.

Surging along behind Springer is Chirinos, who has been getting it done at the plate in the last two series. During that time he’s slashed .385/.579/.846 in five games, and has managed to lead the team in walks this week at 6. Brantley and Correa also continued their excellent starts to the season though Brantey would slow a little in the last game against the Rangers. Meanwhile, Yuli has seemed to come out of his funk, and was one of the better batters in the lineup though he’s not exactly hitting for power at the moment.

Of course it’s hard to single out any one player for praise. The offense as a whole is really clicking recently with 6 players sporting an OPS of at least 1.000. Only three have an OBP below .300 during that time as well. The biggest news is that Altuve has been placed on the IL with a hamstring issue, which comes at a time when he’s been struggling a little at the plate. Hopefully this will give him a chance to sort of breathe and get back into the game quickly.

On the Pen

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I’m gonna get honest with you folks, it’s getting difficult to describe how awesome the bullpen has been from series to series for the Astros. Pressly, Osuna, Rondón, Harris, and James all enjoyed scoreless frames in the last week, with none of them getting touched up by opposing batters. Some other good news is that Osuna and Pressly should now be fully rested to start the road trip after getting to sit through a couple of big blowouts.

Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine as Devo continues to struggle in his appearances, giving up 5 runs in just 3.2 innings of work. Framber Valdez would also have a rough go of it in his appearance against the Royals, but did have a scoreless inning of work against the Rangers.

Collin McHugh would be moved to the pen this week after his troubles on the mound became too much to ignore. Unfortunately he was not that much better in his first time appearing in relief for 2019, seeming to still have issues commanding his fastball.

Tigers

As for the Tigers, they would have a bit of a ho-hum week as they would take two of three from the Angels before splitting a four-game series with the Twins. The Tigers have hovered around .500 for most of the first quarter of the season, though, which has been good enough to keep them at 3rd in the weak AL Central, just ahead of the White Sox. Of course there is not a whole lot of expectation with this Tigers team, which is mired in a rebuild that was made explicit by the trade that would send Verlander to Houston after years of being the face of Detroit’s franchise.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Game One-Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The big bat for Detroit has been Brandon Dixon, who went 6-for-17 with a couple of homers in the past two series. He’s led the team in all three of the big stats with a .353/.353/.765 slash line but, to be fair, that’s not exactly a high bar.

Detroit’s offense as been somewhat cold this past week. Though trade bait OF Nick Castellanos has had a fairly good week, things begin to range towards mediocre pretty quickly after that. Though some have managed to get on base at at least a decent clip, such as the ever-dangerous Miguel Cabrera, a majority of the team has been kept off the basepaths, with only 5 players with an OBP above .300 this week. Other than Dixon you could probably argue that Ronny Rodríguez and Gordon Beckham have had decent to good seasons at the plate, though they only have 19 and 20 games, respectively.

Unfortunately for the Tigers’ faithful that’s pretty much about as good as it gets in 2019. As a group, Detroit ranks near the bottom of the league in almost every offensive category, not really putting up much of a fight in most of their games. The big exception to that rule is doubles, which their 5th in the league at 79 in spite of being 27th in hits at 291. They also have a decent amount of triples with 8 three-baggers.

On the Pen

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The back end of Detroits’ bullpen is anchored by closer Shane Greene, who has had a stellar beginning to the 2019 season. Greene is a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities for the Tigers in 18 innings pitched this season. He’s also managed to hold back opposing hitters with a .154 AVG and 0.78 WHIP on the year.

He’s joined by Joe Jiménez in the setup role, who was originally talked about as a possible closer to start the season. However, Jiménez would struggle out of the gate before collecting himself and settling into the 8th inning role.

Other than those two Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy, and Victor Alcántara have seen the most use out of Detroit’s pen this year. Of those three Farmer has the better stats on the year with a 3.07 ERA in 19 games.

Of the remaining relief arms for Detroit that’s the best ERA mark available. Though ERA isn’t everything when it comes to relievers, most of the rest of the pen is also surrendering hits at a .300 or better average and own WHIPs above 1.50.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Brad Peacock, RHP (3-2, 4.30 ERA) vs. Matthew Boyd, LHP (4-2, 2.86 ERA)

Peacock comes into this game after pitching the best start of his career that would feature 7 shutout innings and 12 strikeouts as he would flummox the Kansas City offense. It was a good bounce back game for Brad as he would make that start after one of the worst of his career, where he would get shelled for 7 runs in 3.2 innings of work against the Twins. Peacock has had a bit of an up-and-down season when starting, but did change it up in his last start when he pitched out of a full windup for the first time since 2016.

Detroit counters with Matthew Boyd, who has been the model of consistency in the Tigers’ rotation. Boyd hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his 8 starts this season, and has gone at least 6 innings in all but one of those. The Tigers have to be pleased with what they see from Boyd after a few seasons of aggressive mediocrity from the leftie. On top of that, Boyd’s peripherals suggest that this season’s numbers may be for real.

Game 2: Wade Miley, LHP (3-2, 3.18 ERA) vs. Ryan Carpenter, LHP (0-1, 10.80 ERA)

Miley comes into this game after pitching his 24th consecutive start with just 3 runs or less surrendered, going back to last May. This is the longest current streak by a non-opener starter in the league. Miley has also managed to get into the 6th inning in all of his five most recent starts, supplying length out the starter role.

Detroit will send Ryan Carpenter to the mound who is making just his second start of 2019 after the first was... less than ideal. Carpenter would surrender six runs in five innings against the Angels, only managing to strike out 2 during that game. Carpenter has not done well in his limited time at the MLB level beginning last season, and has given up at least 3 runs in 5 of his 6 MLB games as a starer.

Game 3: Justin Verlander, RHP (6-1, 2.51 ERA) vs. TBD

After a small hiccup near the beginning of the season Verlander has shown his usual dominant form in the past six games, going 5-1 in that time with a 1.79 ERA. He’s also continued to eat up innings to fulfill his workhorse role, getting into the 7th in 5 of his 9 games. He’s reached the sixth in all but one start this season as well. Verlander has also continued to be stingy with the runs, only giving up more than one in 3 games so far in 2019.

As for Detroit, this spot in the rotation is usually filled by Tyson Ross, who’s been pretty terrible this season. Unfortunately, he was placed on the IL just yesterday, so Detroit will be scrambling to fill this role by Wednesday. The options are wide open between this being a bullpen day for the Tigers or they plug in a starter from AAA while they gather their wits.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, May 13th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D

Game 2: Tuesday, May 14th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D

Game 3: Wednesday, May 15th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Tigers - 97.1 The Ticket
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Tigers - FS-D

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (79 votes)
  • 60%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (129 votes)
  • 2%
    Tigers Win 2-1
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Tigers Sweep 3-0
    (2 votes)
215 votes total Vote Now