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2019 Series Preview #39: Houston Astros @ Chicago White Sox

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The Astros (77-41, 1st in AL West) continue their coast-to-coast road trip with three against the rebuilding White Sox (52-64, 3rd in AL Central)

MLB: APR 22 Astros at White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros touch down in Second City after having an eight game win streak snapped. It was done so in gut-punch fashion as the Orioles walked off with two outs in the ninth. Even with that turn of events, the team has been playing some of its best baseball all season in recent days, with a fully healthy offense exploding all over opposing pitching. Unfortunately, thanks to a blisteringly hot A’s team, the Astros haven’t gained too much in the division, but they do sit a rather healthy 10 games ahead of second place Oakland. They’ll have a chance to possibly pad that lead against another under performing team in the form of the White Sox.

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

The Astros’ offense has been ridiculously hot in recent play, which includes a franchise-record 23 runs during the second game of the Baltimore series and 59 total in the last 5 games. Even without the 23-run game, the offense has been putting up very impressive stats in the last week.

Once again it’s hard to really single out any one of the Astros’ players for high praise this week. Bregman and Gurriel both had extremely good weeks, hitting for both power and average. Bregman may have slightly edged him though, hitting safely in 8 of his last 16 at bats along with 4 walks and 5 doubles. He also took a fastball off the shoulder late in yesterday’s match, but would stay in the game.

Yordan Alvarez just keeps on rolling over MLB pitching, logging a 3-homer game against the Orioles and managing 7 RBI’s in that game as well. He’s quickly become one of the most exciting players in the league and is very much in on the Rookie of the Year discussion.

Meanwhile, both Correa and Altuve continue their solid returns from the injury list. Correa really seems to have returned to form nicely in recent games, having managed three homers this week. Altuve had 2 of his own to go along with an RBI triple as well. Michael Brantley has been swinging it lately as well, which is good to see after he went through a mini-funk a couple of weeks ago.

Springer and Marisnickhad good weeks as well, while Aledmys Diaz turned in a decent performance. Really the dimmest spots in the lineup were the catching platoon and Josh Reddick, who has certainly been struggling at the plate in recent days.

Houston Astros v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Orioles series proved to be a bit of a problem for the bullpen, who managed to blow a save in the finale of the series. They had been cruising along through the past couple of weeks though, so one performance shouldn’t worry too muc. However, it was disheartening to watch the Orioles come back and hold their own with the ‘Stros in that game.

The finale featured a 3-run inning given up by Roberto Osuno, who has struggled on occasion in 2019. After allowing the Orioles to creep back within a run, he would surrender a game-winning homer in the 9th with just one out to go and push his ERA above 3.00 for the first time all season.

While Osuna’s runs were the worst, they were not the only ones surrendered by the pen. Both Devo and Joe Smith allowed a couple runs this week as well, and Joe Biagini gave up 1 against the Rockies. Other than that it’s been pretty much drama free.

Will Harris continued his role as problem-solver for AJ, pitching 1.1 perfect innings across 2 games. He’s easily been the Astros’ best reliever this season and continues to come into high leverage situations in the middle innings. Ryan Pressly also made his return from the IL during the series against the O’s tossing a scoreless inning.

Though they did stumble a little against the Orioles, the bullpen and pitching in general still remain a strength for the Astros. Hopefully Osuna can shower off the blown save from yesterday’s game and bring his A-stuff against the White Sox.

White Sox

The White Sox continue their steady rebuild as they look to build around a young core of players and a rotation that holds a lot of promise. Unfortunately that raw talent hasn’t been enough to catapult the Sox into contention just yet, but there are certainly a few people that think this team may not be too far off from a return to the postseason. In the meantime, however, they are one of the weaker teams in the AL, though not quite at the bottom of the rubbish heap. The last three series have seen the White Sox going 6-4, but that came after a rather dreadful 2-8 stretch.

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers - Game One Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Though Chicago increasingly looking towards their young core, one of the best hitters on the team this week has been veteran José Abreu. In his last seven games he’s gone 12-for-27 with three doubles and a homer. He’s joined by one of the younger guys who is having a bit of a breakout this season, Tim Anderson. Anderson is slashing .520/.538/.600 in the last two series.

The White Sox’s offense has a few players who are swinging hot bats in recent weeks. Welington Castillo has been a threat in part-time duty, going 5-for-13 with a homer and a double in three games this week. He mostly platoons with Abreu at DH, but will spell McCann at catcher from time to time.

Speaking of McCann, he’s also been hot this week with a .364/.417/.500 slash line in his last six games, five of which would see him playing as catcher. Ryan Goins is probably the Sox’s best remaining hitter after that, and he has been one of the team’s better OBP guys all year.

Eloy Jiménez, who had his rookie years bought out by the White Sox at the start of 2019 for $43 million, has had a rather underwhelming season so far. Of course that doesn’t mean the future isn’t there for him as I’m sure he’ll be given a long leash to work out his issues at the major league level.

Beyond that the offense for the White Sox has been somewhat anemic this year. As a unit they rank in the bottom five in most categories except for batting average. Even there they really only rise to the middle of the pack with a 14th-best .253 average.

Injury Note: One of Chicago’s better hitters this year has been Yoán Moncada, who is currently on the injured list for a strained hamstring. Though there has been no indication of when he will return, there have been reports that he’s getting closer to 100%. I expect the Astros will miss him in this series as he will probably head out for a rehab assignment before returning.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox’s pen has been steadily anchored by Alex Colomé, who is having one of the better seasons of his MLB career. He owns a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 innings so far this year as well as a .170 BAA and 0.97 WHIP. Aaron Bummer joins him as a high-leverage option for the White Sox, with a 1.57 ERA of his own as well as a sub-1.00 WHIP.

Evan Marshall, who wasn’t on the MLB team until early May, has also become an option for the Sox when protecting a lead. These three arms are easily the best on the team and the Astros can expect to see them late in close games.

It looked as though Jace Fry would also be joining that group of arms after he had an absolutely stellar month of July, but he has struggled a little in recent games. That includes a 4-run outing against Oakland this past weekend. Things start to get a little dicy for Chicago’s bullpen after those relievers, though Juan Minaya has been having a decent year and sees regular work.

Kelvin Herrera, who was formerly a highly sought trade chip, has been a complete disaster for Chicago. He owns a 7.22 ERA on the year and has been getting absolutely pummeled by opposing offenses. Josh Osich seems to get the call most often for mop-up duties, having seen 46.1 innings out of the pen while also giving up 13 homers and a 5.63 ERA.

Pitching Match Ups

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Houston Astros John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Game 1: Zack Grienke, RHP (11-4, 3.08 ERA) vs Dylan Cease, RHP (2-4, 6.00 ERA)

Greinke makes his second start in an Astros uniform after a somewhat disappointing beginning to his time in Houston. He went 6 innings but gave up 5 runs to the Rockies, though he was not helped by a sloppy defense in that game. Still, he did struggle with fastball command and was nipped for a three-run homer late. Though Greinke has games like this from time to time he is more than likely to bounce back from it. He has only given up more then 2 earned runs after a 4+ run game two out of five times and has always gone at least 6 innings.

The White Sox will counter with rookie starter Dylan Cease, who is making just his 7th career start and his first against any team from the AL West. Cease won his last start after losing the previous four in a row, which came after tossing 5 innings of 2-run ball. He has been suffering from a bit of bad luck according to his peripheral numbers, but he certainly hurts himself with a BB/9 rate of 4.09. Cease had previously shown promise all the way up through the AA level, but faded somewhat at AAA, with that trend continuing after his recent call up.

Game 2: Gerrit Cole, RHP (14-5, 2.87 ERA) vs Iván Nova, RHP (7-9, 4.80 ERA)

Cole comes into this contest on an absolute tear as he has given up more than a single run in just 1 of his last five games, and that one was just two runs. He’s gone at least 6 innings in his last 14 games and struck out 10 or more batters in 8 of those. Cole is well on his way to eclipsing his career-high in strikeouts if he can continue his 12.98 K/9 rate, which would also be a career high. You can expect to see Verlander vs Cole for AL Cy Young if this kind of play continues.

Nova makes this start for the White Sox after pitching one of his two best games this season. He twirled 8 innings of shutout ball against Detroit in order to capture the win. He didn’t do it with the best raw stuff either, only striking out 1 and walking three during that game. Nova has been weird this season in that you seem to either get one dominant version, like what he brought against Detroit, or an absolute meltdown. He has given up 4 or more runs 12 times out of 24 starts this year, but has also held opposing teams to 1 or less runs 10 times. He’s looked sharp is his past 4 starts though, which is easily his best stretch of 2019.

Game 3: Wade Miley, LHP (11-4, 2.99 ERA) vs Ross Detwiler, LHP (1-3, 5.35 ERA)

Wade Miley is in the middle of a strong run of 5 solid games where he has not surrendered more than 2 runs. He continues to play above his role as the Astros’ #4 starter, and was rewarded with a sub-3.00 ERA, his first since April. Miley’s biggest issue this year has probably been the walks, which he has allowed at a little over the 3 per 9 innings mark. Still, Miley makes for a strong follow up to Gerrit Cole against the White Sox’s offense.

Detwiler will make his third start since returning to Chicago’s rotation after spending some time pitching out of the pen. He pitched well in both of those games even though he was saddled with a loss in each, only giving up 2 runs and pitching into the 6th inning in both. Detwiler is susceptible to the long ball, surrendering 2 in each of his last two games, and sitting at a 2.94 HR/9 rate. He last faced Houston as a member of the Mariners in 2018, where he tossed 6 innings while giving up 3 runs and a homer to take the loss.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, August 12th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / White Sox - WGN 720, WRTO 1200
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / White Sox - NBCSCH

Game 2: Tuesday, August 13th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / White Sox - WGN 720, WRTO 1200
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / White Sox - NBCSCH+

Game 3: Wednesday, August 14th @ 1:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / White Sox - WGN 720, WRTO 1200
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / White Sox - WGN

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (54 votes)
  • 43%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (45 votes)
  • 1%
    White Sox Win 2-1
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    White Sox Sweep 3-0
    (2 votes)
103 votes total Vote Now