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2019 Series Preview #33: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (64-37, 1st in AL West) battle the A’s (57-43, 2nd in AL West) for some breathing room in the division

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Hello everyone, thanks for the feedback in the last series preview. After reading what people wrote I’ll be sticking with the full coverage of the Astros since people do read it to keep up with the team. But I will always emphasize the opposing team when writing about both isn’t feasible.

Also, I’ll be on vacation later this week so this is my last preview for a bit, but I’m sure someone will be covering for me to keep everyone updated.


Recency Bias

Athletics

Oakland will touch down in Houston for the second leg of a 7-game road trip and a series that is a little more momentous than what was expected a month ago. The A’s have played themselves back into contention for the division though the Astros do still have some wiggle room. They opened the second half of the season by winning 5 straight games and sweeping two series before splitting a hard fought one with the Twins. The last game in particular must have felt like a kick in the ass when Oakland was walked off by the Twins after coming into the 9th up by a run.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s offense comes into this series pretty hot after scoring 38 runs in the past 6 games. That recent effort has been led by former Astro and object of much lament, Ramón Laureano. Laureano seems to have really found something at the plate this season. Even going 0-for-4 against in yesterday’s game, he’s still managed 6 double and 2 homers this past week.

Matt Chapman has continued to be an offensive leader on the team in 2019, leading the A’s with 22 long balls for the season. He’s joined by Mark Cahna as one of Oakland’s better bats for the year, though he hasn’t had as many at bats due to missing a couple of weeks earlier in the season.

Marcus Semien and Matt Olson have also been reliably decent for the A’s during a majority of the season as well as the past week. They both are profiling as decent average, high OBP guys with some pop so far this year.

Someone who hasn’t been much of a factor is Khris Davis, who seems to be having a bit of a down year after starting strong this season. He’s only managed 16 years so far, which is a far cry from what one would expect from the usually-prolific slugger.

Things haven’t been particularly exciting after that for Oakland. Chad Pinder and Jurickson Profar have had decent weeks coming into this game, but neither has been particularly impressive in 2019.

As a team the A’s area a fringy top-ten offense for the season. This comes mostly thanks to a comparatively poor start so it’s hard to judge them as such these days, but they still have yet to truly become a set of elite bats in 2019.

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

With the evaporation of Blake Treinen’s dominance from last season and a stint on the IL, the A’s back end of the pen changed since last we saw them. Liam Hendriks has become the 9th inning guy and has done admirably well since being asked to take over the position.

Hendriks has been money in the bank for the A’s and is easily their best reliever with a 1.46 ERA in 55.1 innings. He did seem a little shaky the past couple of days though, and was on the mound for yesterday’s walkoff against the Twins. Those runs were the first Hendriks has surrendered in 21 innings. This also marked his third appearance in as many days, so he’s probably not available in tonight’s game.

Treinen is still in the mix for later innings in games, but hasn’t seen a save opportunity since mid-June. He’s struggled mightily this season with a 4.46 ERA in 2019. The other half of the A’s super-duo for the 8th and the 9th, Lou Trivino, has also been off his game compared to last season and is sporting an ERA north of 4 as well.

Yusmeiro Petit continues to be one of the A’s workhorses and is having a banner year for Oakland. He has a 2.86 ERA in 53.2 innings, the second most on the team. Joakim Soria is another reliever who has seen a promotion in the pen this season, but his numbers are a little inflated due to a poor start to the year.

The A’s also have Wei-Chung Wang, who has filled in for the DFA’d Fernando Rodney with a 1.80 ERA in 20 innings this year. This is his third stint in the majors since 2014 and he seems to have really found something since returning.

Injury Notes: Backup catcher Mick Hundley and reliever Jharel Cotton are both on rehab assignments and could possibly be activated during this series. Neither of them were particularly spectacular in recent starts, so it’s possible the A’s want them to log a few more minor league innings.

Astros

Houston continued their assault on opposing teams at home as they just finished off a sweep of the reeling Rangers. That sweep pretty much put a nail in the coffin of any idea that the Rangers should be buyers at the deadline, so it was a little extra sweet. The Astros are now riding a 5-game winning streak and have an opportunity to really deflate the A’s in the divisional standings if they can take a series win here. Though there’s still time left in the season, it would be better to push Oakland down right here and now rather than give them any more of opening in the West. Houston has absolutely walloped the A’s this season, winning seven of the first eight contests and outscoring them 42-20.

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

The fact of the matter is that Michael Brantley is a big damn hero right now. He’s been tearing it up ever since the All Star break and managed to find an additional gear against the Rangers. In the last two games of that series he went 6-for-7 with a walk, two homers, and a double.

He’s joined by the usual suspects as most of the Astros offense has really been clicking during the winning streak: Springer is slashing .320/.414./.840 with 4 homers this week; Gurriel continues to punish the baseball with 4 doubles and 2 taters in 10 hits; Bregman is getting on base at a .452 clip to go with a .292 AVG and 2 bombs. I mean, I could go on.

So I will: Altuve is chugging along nicely with an OPS north of .900 this week and a rising BA, and Alvarez continues to impress as a rookie phenom. His power numbers have dipped a slight bit recently, but Yordan continues to drive the ball and get hits even without sending it out of the park.

Of note is that Robinson Chirinos has begun to show signs of life at the plat once again. If he can return to his earlier season form just in time for the return of some other key offensive components, the Astros could easily go on a rampage in the coming weeks. Speaking of...

Injury Notes: Aledmys Díaz is expected to be activated from the IL during this series, but as of this writing the team hasn’t announced a move to recall him from Corpus Christi. Correa will be eligible to return from the 60-day IL during the Cardinals series and will continue his rehab in Round Rock until then.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The bullpen showed up in a big way against the Rangers, only giving up 2 runs across the entire series. Those 2 runs are the only ones surrendered by the bullpen in 12.2 innings going back to the finale against the Angels.

Devo and Harris have both managed to keep earned runs off their ledgers this week, though Harris did surrender an unearned one. Joe Smith has also made his return to the team and tossed 2 scoreless innings this week.

James has looked good in recent appearances, including one as an opener, but he also left yesterday’s game after his velocity began to dip as the inning progressed. Héctor Rondón had a complete meltdown when playing against the Angels as the Astros’ other opener, but then had a nice bounce-back outing against the Rangers.

Other than that the biggest story out of the pen is Osuna and Pressly, who both gave up runs this week. Osuna still managed to convert two save opportunities though, and Pressly’s came during an Astros blowout.

Pitching Match Ups

Game 1: Homer Bailey, RHP (8-6, 4.69 ERA) vs Gerrit Cole, RHP (10-5, 3.12 ERA)

Homer Bailey looked good in his first Oakland start since being traded over from KC. He tossed 6 innings of 2-run ball against the Mariners in that one, but this game will be more of a test to see if Oakland can get its money’s worth. While he’s had some very good starts this year, he’s also been blown up several times and isn’t exactly a stellar add for the rotation. Bailey has done well against the Astros though, owning a 1.46 ERA against them in eight starts.

Houston counters with Cole, who has really picked it up recently on the mound. Though he did surrender 4 runs to the Rangers just before the break, that was his worst performance in his past 10 starts. He’s also now logged 11 multi-strikeout games this season and recently took over the MLB lead from Scherzer with 194 K’s. Cole has really become a beast in the rotation and is firmly in the mix for the 2019 Cy Young, but will need to compete with his teammate Verlander for the prize.

Game 2: Mike Fiers, RHP (9-3, 3.64 ERA) vs Wade Miley, LHP (8-4, 3.25 ERA)

Fiers has been on a streak since April 26th and is the owner of the second-lowest ERA among AL starters at 2.44 during that time. Coincidentally, that does not include his first start against the Astros this season where he was slapped around to the tune of 6 runs in 1.2 innings. He did well in their second meeting though, giving up just 2 runs across 6.2 innings. Other than a streak of terrible games to start the season. Fiers has been a legit ace for an A’s staff in need of one. He’ll probably present a bigger challenge than most Astros fans are aware of.

Wade Miley makes this start after an outing where he took a no-hitter against the Angels into the fifth before being lifted in the 6th. Wade has proven to be a solid signing for the Asros as he has steadily turned in gutsy performances. He will now serve as a bridge between Verlander and Cole but is a potent starter in his own right as well. Miley has faced the A’s once this season where he tossed 6 innings of 1-run ball before taking the hard-luck loss.

Game 3: Chris Bassitt, RHP (7-4, 3.96 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (12-4, 2.99 ERA)

Bassitt comes into this match after grinding out 5 innings against the Twins where he gave up 3 runs, 2 earned. He’s done pretty well over the course of the season with minimal blowouts for his part, but not none. He did a good job against Houston the last time he faced them, tossing 6 innings of 3-run ball. Bassitt started the season in the minors for the A’s before earning a rotation spot in April that he has yet to relinquish.

Verlander has been working on a Cy Young worthy season that has really only been derailed by the long ball. He’s only had three starts in 2019 where he hasn’t given up a home run and nine of them where the only runs he’s given up is by solo shots. JV is still just as dominant as ever though, with an MLB-leading WHIP of 0.84 in 138.2 innings this year. Verlander has only seen Oakland once this season and managed to have his way with them, going 8 innings of 1-run ball.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, July 22nd @ 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

Game 2: Tuesday, July 23rd @ 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 3: Wednesday, July 24th @ 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

  • 31%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (73 votes)
  • 58%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (138 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (12 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (12 votes)
235 votes total Vote Now