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2019 Series Preview #19: Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics

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The Astros (37-20, 1st in AL West) swing out West for some divisional play starting with the A’s (29-27, 2nd in AL West)

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros come to Oakland after grinding out a 6-4 homestand that saw Collin McHugh, George Springer, Max Stassi, Aledmys Díaz, and Carlos Correa all go on the IL within an 8 day period. Altuve would also suffer a setback during his rehab from a hamstring injury, so that’s just great. In the meantime, the depth from Round Rock has shown some spark in limited duty, but time will tell if they can continue that performance. Luckily, the team is entering what appears to be a mostly soft month of June. There will be some challenges, but they face last place teams in 13 of 27 games next month.

Of Bats and Men

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With the loss of some of the bigger bats in the lineup, the offense has cooled somewhat for the ‘Stros this week. Brantley and Bregman have had the hottest bats recently with Uncle Mike turning into a hitting machine and Bregs blasting bombs and doubles.

Really the best hitter with more than a couple of games this week, other than those two, has been Aledmys Díaz, who looked to be sliding into a hot streak before re-aggravating a hamstring strain on a slide at home.

However, in short shift, there were fireworks out of the catcher position in the one game that Garrett Stubbs got to play. Called up to warm the bench for Max Stassi, he went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored during his MLB debut. Fisher, who will probably be getting an extended look in the coming weeks, also had a decent week in four games, though nothing to get especially excited about.

Unfortunately, the rest of the offense has been in a bit of a funk to close out the month after starting out red hot at the beginning of May. Hopefully they can get some of their mojo back after a day off and facing off against the A’s occasionally suspect rotation.

On the Pen

Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Reliever of the week honors has to go to Will Harris, who is having one of the most successful stretches of his career in recent memory. He added 2.1 perfect innings to his 2019 campaign and now sits with a 0.95 ERA, .179 AVG, and 0.89 WHIP in 19 innings. Pressly is the only other reliever who can beat those stats in 2019, with a microscopic 0.36 ERA, .149 AVG, and 0.59 WHIP. He gave up his first run since last August earlier this week, but followed that up with 3 clean innings of work.

The same could not be said for Osuna, who easily suffered his worst week as the Astros’ closer. During that time he surrendered 3 homers and 5 total runs across 4 innings. Osuna did look good in his last outing, but it was still a concerning performance from the usually-reliable closer in recent days.

Framber Valdez and Devo have probably been the best of the remaining arms recently, and mostly by being able to pitch themselves out of trouble they pitched themselves in to. Rondón has looked good for the most part this season as well, but he has been somewhat wobbly lately and seems to have been supplanted by Harris.

Athletics

The A’s welcome the Astros to town after a series that saw the Angels pour some cold water on their hot streak. They dropped their last two and the series against the Halos after 6 straight wins, 10 if you include a suspended game they’re currently winning against Detroit. The month of May has been pretty good to the A’s as they would climb from 4th in the division to 2nd before getting tripped up by the Angels. They haven’t faced a whole lot of the big bad teams in that time though, with Cleveland being the toughest opponent they’ve seen other than the Astros in 2019.

Of Bats and Men

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The A’s offense is looking like a bit of a powerhouse lately, having popped 15 home runs in the past 6 games alone. They also have 4 guys sitting on an OPS north of 1.000, with catcher Josh Phegly leading the bunch. Though he only saw 14 PA’s this week, he still mashed 2 homers and 2 doubles while driving in 5. Phegly has certainly been one of Oakland’s better batters this season, and his recent surge is no surprise.

Of course he’s hardly alone at the top of a hot offense for the A’s. Steven Piscotty, Mark Canha, and old-friend-turned-defensive-phenom Ramón Laureano have all been clubbing the ball this week as well. Of those, however, only Mark Canha has done so consistently this season. Indeed, Canha might be their most dangerous hitter.

Not too far behind him is Matt Chapman, who has broken out a bit since slumping at the beginning of the year. He’s also been killing it at the plate this week, and has 3 homers on his ledger in the last 6 games. Matt Olson also has 3, and he and Marcus Semien round out the hot bats for Oakland this week.

While they’ve certainly had a good run of it in May, the A’s are still somewhat near the middle of the pack so far as offense goes. After a slow start to the season, they are certainly looking more like the contender the were last season and it would be nice to see the Astros push them down a little bit.

On the Pen

Los Angeles Angels v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

There haven’t been many major changes in Oakland’s pen since the last time we saw them in Houston. Blake Treinen continues to be their big arm in the 9th, though he has seen some struggles lately. He also spent some time on the shelf with elbow soreness in late April / early May.

Lou Trivino continues to play the setup role and Joakim Soria has become the high-leverage guy in other innings beside the 8th and 9th. The last few games have not been very kind to those two or Treinen, however, as they have each seen a good amount of use and given up multiple runs.

One big change for Oakland’s pen since last we saw them is the addition of Wei-Chung Wang, who has looked good in his three innings of work. He has taken the spot of Fernando Rodney, who was DFA’d after a pretty atrocious start to 2019.

You can also expect to see Ryan Buchter as a decent arm out of the pen in trusted situations, and Yusmeiro Petit as an innings eater if needed.

Pitching Match Ups

Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Game 1: Brad Peacock, RHP (5-2, 3.19 ERA) vs. Mike Fiers, RHP (4-3, 5.00 ERA)

Peacock is officially on a roll as he makes this start following 4 straight outings where he gave up just a single run in 23 innings. He’s also had a bit of a strikeout surge in his last two games, with 9 and 8 K’s in 5 and 6 innings, respectively. While the first three games of this recent streak came against bottom feeder teams, the last one was 6 innings of shutout ball against a potent Red Sox lineup. Peacock did get slapped around the last time he faced the A’s in early April, with this game being a pitching rematch of that one.

Oakland counters with old friend Mike Fiers, who has had a better season recently than his numbers seem to suggest. After his second career no-hitter against the Reds, he’s managed a 5-inning, 1-run performance followed by two quality starts. Really, Fiers numbers are tainted by 4 pretty terrible games this season and other than that he’s been a perfectly serviceable starter. One of those 4 starts came against the Astros the first time these two pitchers faced off, when they would chase him after just 1.2 innings and 5 runs scored.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (8-2, 2.38 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson, LHP (6-3, 3.86 ERA)

JV’s last start was somewhat pedestrian compared to how he normally pitches, tossing 7 innings of 3-run ball against Boston. That was easily his worst start since getting roughed up a little in Monterrey, and just the 3rd time he’s gotten into the 6th and given up more than 1 run. Verlander has continued to be the definition of a workhorse ace for the Astros and it shows as he is experiencing yet another Cy Young caliber season.

Brett Anderson comes into this game as one of Oakland’s better starters on the season, especially in the month of May. Though he’s given up 4 runs in two of his five starts, he’s also managed to hold opponents to just 1 in each of the other three. He doesn’t really have strikeout stuff and can walk a few guys from time to time, so he’s a little more gettable than his ERA shows. Anderson has made a career out of being an effective ground ball starter without a lot of pizzazz, so Houston will need to elevate if they want success in this game.

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (5-5, 4.02 ERA) vs. Chris Bassitt, RHP (3-1, 3.27 ERA)

Gerrit Cole continued his relentless assault on MLB strikeout records in his last start, punching out 12 Cubs across 6 innings of work. He would give up just 2 runs in the first inning during that start, which was nice to see after surrendering 6 runs to the White Sox. Cole has had a bit of an up and down season where he will have a string of dominant outings before getting slapped around rather suddenly. One thing that can be relied on for Cole, though, is his high strikeout totals.

Bassitt will take the mound following something of a clunker against the Angels his last time out. He was pummeled for 5 runs in 5 innings during that game, which followed up a 3.2 IP, 3 run showing against Cleveland. Other than those two starts, however, Bassitt has actually had a good season for Oakland since joining the rotation in mid-April. Once considered an up-and-coming candidate for the rotation, Bassitt was derailed by TJ surgery before coming back last season and spending a chunk of time between the rotation and the bullpen. It’s hard to peg where his ceiling may lie, but FIP and xFIP suggest it might be lower than it seems.

Fun Fact

The Astros have won the first two games of their last 6 series and haven’t lost in their last 8. They’ve only lost 4 of 18 series so far this season and haven’t lost one since May 2nd.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, May 31st @ 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: Saturday, June 1st @ 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 / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 3: Sunday, June 2nd @ 3:07 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

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (23 votes)
  • 55%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (81 votes)
  • 24%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (36 votes)
  • 3%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (5 votes)
145 votes total Vote Now