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2019 Series Preview #24: Houston Astros @ Cincinnati Reds

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The Astros (48-24, 1st in AL West) hit the road for some interleague play with three against the Reds (31-38, 5th in NL Central)

Houston Astros v Cincinnati Reds
Bonus Fun Fact: The last time the Astros played in Cincinnati they were division rivals.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

A big thank you to scottydouble for covering for me while I was away. This past week marked one of my bigger events of the year at work and I worked quite a few late nights so I appreciate him keeping the previews coming to y’all during that time.

Recency Bias

Astros

Houston comes to Ohio after a 5-3 homestand that featured a couple of days off and some rest for a pretty worked over bullpen. The offense wasn’t exactly explosive until the final series against Toronto wherein they obliterated Blue Jays pitching before the final game, when they were shutout by a familiar face. They did continue their unbeaten series streak at home with two wins and a tie during that time though. Houston continues to get it done with depth as the boys from Round Rock have performed admirably, but it looks as though some of the big names might be on the way back soon.

Milwaukee Brewers v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Of course it’s been all Yordan Àlvarez all the time since getting called up from the Express. In just six games he’s managed to mash 4 home runs, walk 6 times, and slash .381/.519/.952. So pretty good.

Jack Mayfield had himself a good week thanks to a monster game where he smacked 3 doubles. He’s also flashed the leather for some rather impressive defensive plays in recent games. Myles Straw has also produced commendably in a similar amount of playtime as Mayfield, and has a higher OBP to show for it.

Tyler White has been swinging a bit of a hot bat in recent days and even managed his second homer of the season. White may yet be able to muddy up the Astros’ upcoming roster crunch situation if he can continue to produce in this fashion.

Bregman has been an on-base machine lately, but is doing it mostly by the walk with 10 base on balls in the last week alone. Gurriel has also been steady, but after that things have been a little slow, though Michael Brantley has shown signs of starting to break out of a mini-slump he’s been in.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Astros’ pen seems to have righted what had been a bit of listing ship in recent days, having had a pretty decent homestand. The last week saw particularly good performances by Pressly and Harris, who were both perfect in a combined 3 total innings.

Osuna would get in an inning of work in that time as well, giving up a couple of hits but still closing out the game without a save opportunity. The pitcher who did get one this week is Rogelio Armenteros, who made his MLB debut in the series against the Blue Jays and got himself an old-fashioned 3-inning save.

Josh James would also have a couple of scoreless innings as he continues making strides toward improving from his awful start to the season. Rondón gave up a run this week as well but has looked pretty solid for the most part lately, as did Devo in his most recent outing. Devo did give up 3 in his previous one though, so there is that.

Then there’s Cionel Pérez, who I will sum up only as “not good” in his two most recent appearances, including a disaster of an appearance in yesterday’s match against Toronto. He would also surrender the game-winning runs to Milwaukee in an extra inning match after playing hero in a similar game against the Orioles. Such is baseball.

One nice thing about this week is that it has given AJ a chance to rest the big arms at the back end of the pen, with Harris, Pressly, and Osuna all pitching less than two innings each in the past week. Of course it helps when you can deploy secret bullpen weapon Tyler White for mop-up duty, who got another inning in the blowout against Toronto.

Reds

Like 3 of the Astros’ last 4 opponents, the Reds are in the midst of a rebuild without a real ETA in the near future. They haven’t won a series since May 26th, though they have managed to at least avoid being swept in that time. While there hasn’t been much movement towards success at the MLB level in recent years, the Reds do have a minor league system that consistently ranks in the top ten to five overall. Until that really starts paying dividends though, Cincinnati will continue to remain cellar dwellers in a tough division.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Philadelphia Phillies John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Dietrech was a castoff from the Miami Marlins this past offseason due to them not wanting to pay his projected $4 million in arbitration. The Reds scooped him up on a minor league deal that payed $2 million once he hit the major league level, and all he’s done is mash since then. He’s become a low-average high-power hitter in a Reds uniform and may be a valuable piece of trade bait considering he has another year of arbitration left.

Curt Casali and Eugenio Suárez have also been money in the bank for the Reds this season, though they have done it in different fashions. Suárez has been a mini version of Dietrech for Cincinnati, mashing taters but with a low average. Meanwhile, Casali has been hovering near a .300 average this season but has only launched 4 out of the park.

The Reds don’t really have a whole lot of hit-for-average players after that, except for maybe Jose Iglesias, who doesn’t have much power but gets on base quite well. Though it appears as though the Astros will not face him as the Reds have placed him on the paternity list. Cincinnati does have a few other guys with good OBP though, including Nick Senzel, Jesse Winker, Phillip Ervin, and the ever-relevant Joey Votto.

Votto has been having a bit of a down year so far in 2019 as his average has dipped somewhat. His numbers are pretty similar to his only other below-average season, 2014, but other than that he’s consistently batted near .300 as opposed to his current .255.

The hottest player for the Reds this past week has easily been offseason trade acquisition Yasiel Puig, who has really turned it on after an absolutely atrocious start to 2019. Ha tore apart Rangers and Indians pitching with 10 hits in the past 5 games, including two 3-hit performances.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Rasail Iglesias has been firmly in control of the Reds’ closer position since taking over the role at the beginning of the 2017 season. Since then he’s had some ups and downs but has mostly been solid. He did stumble a bit near the beginning of the season and stirred some controversy when he complained about his usage to the media, but still seems to be the trusted 9th inning guy for Cincinnati.

Jared Hughes and Amir Garrett serve as the bridges in the pan to get to Iglesia, and both have done well in that spot. Garrett in particular, who has some of the better numbers of any of the relievers in the Reds’ pen. He’s managed a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings with a BAA of .198 and a WHIP of 1.13.

Robert Stephenson has also had a pretty good 2019, and is sporting the best BAA and WHIP at .162 and 1.00, respectively. Michael Lorenzen sees the most use of any pitcher out of the bullpen, and his numbers are pretty decent with a 3.19 ERA in 36.2 innings, but he does allow more than his fare share of hits.

There’s also Matt Bowman, who has looked good so far in limited appearances this season, and Zach Duke, who is decidedly less so in more extended time on the mound.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Wade Miley, LHP (6-3, 3.14 ERA) vs Luis Castillo, RHP (6-1, 2.20 ERA)

Miley will get to be the first Astro pitcher to wave a bat menacingly at a ball this season as he takes the mound in Game 1. He has continued to be the model of consistency in a Houston uniform, allowing three runs or few in 13 of his 14 starts this year. He tossed six scoreless innings his last time out while scattering 6 hits across those frames. He also has been a reliable innings eater, only failing to go at least five innings in one game this season, where he at least went 4.

This game definitely has the potential to be a pitcher’s duel with Luis Castillo toeing the slab for the Reds. One of the better pitchers in the NL this season, he’s coming into this start after two straight 6-inning, 1-run matches. Castillo has benefitted from an excellent strikeout rate at 10.58 per 9 innings, but his 4.19 BB/9 rate definitely looks like a vulnerability. He has also managed to limit the long ball with just 7 surrendered in 31.2 innings, no small feat for a pitcher who has Great American for a home ballpark.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (9-2, 2.41 ERA) vs. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP (3-3, 4.43 ERA)

Verlander set another milestone this past week by striking out a career high 15 batters against the Brewers on Wednesday. Unfortunately, this would not translate into his 10th win of the season, which continues to remain elusive for JV. He also continues his march towards history as he now sits just one strikeout short of tying Mickey Lolich for 19th all-time. Even with all the punch outs he hasn’t looked his usual dominant self in the past two outings, though he has managed to keep down his ridiculously good BB/9 numbers.

DeSclafini is a pitcher who has been trending in the wrong direction since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2018. This season has seen him take another step backward, but he has managed to hold opposing offense to 1 run in each of his last two games. Before that were a string of games where he averaged closer to 4 runs per outing without getting into the 5th. As an interstate rival of Brantley’s former team he has seen DeSclafani the most, but this will be the first look for most of the Astros.

Game 3: Gerrit Cole, RHP (6-5, 3.67 ERA) vs. Tyler Mahle, RHP (2-7, 4.33 ERA)

Gerrit Cole has continued his strikeout rampage across the league, with double digit K’s in his last two games to bring his season total to 8. He leads the AL at 140 on the year, and is first in MLB with a 13.90 K/9 rate. Cole has been somewhat wobbly in the early innings in recent games but has managed to lock in and go deep while holding off the opposing offense. His numbers are mostly driven up by a few bad outings this year and his 3.03 FIP and 2.47 xFIP is more indicative of the pitcher he’s been outside of those.

Tyler Mahle gets the ball for the Reds after complaining about being lifted in the fifth inning to end his last game against the Rangers. He was sitting at 96 pitches and had given up 4 runs and walked 3 by the time he was yanked, so I’m not sure where he was coming from on that one. While Mahle has definitely tossed a few gems this season, he’s also had his fair share of clunkers and ho-hum games to go along with them. Everything in his numbers suggest that what you see if what you get so far as his usual performance is concerned.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, June 17th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM, 94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Reds – WLW 700, Reds Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Reds - FS-O

Game 2: Tuesday, June 18th @ 6:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM, 94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Reds – WLW 700, Reds Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Reds - FS-O

Game 3: Wednesday, June 19th @ 11:35 am CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM, 94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Reds – WLW 700, Reds Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Reds - FS-O

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (46 votes)
  • 60%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (90 votes)
  • 5%
    Reds Win 2-1
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Reds Sweep 3-0
    (4 votes)
148 votes total Vote Now