clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2019 Series Preview #40: Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics

The Astros (78-43, 1st in AL West) head out west for some after-dark baseball against against the A’s (68-52, 2nd in AL West)

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images

Recency Bias


The Astros come out to California with a chance to put their stamp on the division and push the A’s even further out of contention for the West. While a 9.5 game lead in the division would usually be enough to do just that, the A’s have tended to stick around and make late-season surges. Because of that, you’d like to see the Houston crush their spirits just a little bit more when they have the chance. The Astros will need to overcome having their own spirits crushed after a couple of series that ended on see-saw games that saw normally reliable relievers surrender leads and wins. This last series with the White Sox especially hurt as they went on to lose their first series since one against the Pirates in late June. Still, Houston is one of the top teams in the league and should have a chance to bounce back against the A’s.

Houston Astros v. Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The offense has not really been the problem as it has continued to chug along during this road trip. Bregman especially has been seeing the ball well lately and is one of the top hitters for the team in the past week in spite of missing both games of the doubleheader. Even so, he still managed to mash out 4 doubles and a home run in just 14 AB’s.

He’s joined by both Yuli and Altuve as heroes of the week, with each adding on to their recent hot streak with gusto while on the road. They slashed fairly similar lines to each other and ended up with an OPS just at or just north of 1.300. Yuli has been ever so slightly better at getting on base while Altuve has popped more home runs this week.

Speaking of homers, Altuve and Yordan Alvarez both turned in 3 taters this week, but Alvarez’s average did dip in spite of getting on base regularly. Pitchers seem to be pitching much more carefully around Alvarez these days, but when he sees a mistake he can still crush it.

Brantley has been the OBP king this week, getting on base at a .500 clip across the past 20 AB’s. His full slash line during that time is .450/.500/.750, so we’re definitely seeing an elite Michael Brantley on the road.

Springer has also been hot this past week, but it’s an embarrassment of riches for the Astros’ offense and his .939 OPS is only good for 6th on he team. Aledmys Diaz has also had a good road trip, but he’s only seen 13 AB’s across 5 games.

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

Unfortunately, for however good the offense has been this week the bullpen has been pretty suspect. The only pitcher who has not given up a run this week is Hector Rondon. Smith, Pressly, and Osuna all have multiple runs on their ledgers as well.

Pressly’s 4 earned runs were especially hard as they were a grand slam knockout punch for the rubber match against the White Sox. Osuna’s 3, of course, was the walkoff homer he surrendered to the Orioles in last Sunday’s game, and he did not appear in the series against the Sox.

Devo and Biagini both had to wear a few innings covering for Gerrit Cole during an impromptu bullpen day after Cole notified staff of a hamstring issue. Devo hurt his numbers with some sloppy play while Biagini went three innings and gave up 1 during a decent appearance. He was rewarded with a trip to Round Rock while a fresh arm was called up in the form of Cy Sneed.

In spite of giving up a run, Harris continues to look sharp in his 2019 campaign with a sparkling 1.76 ERA. McHugh also looked good out of the pen this week, even though he too gave up a run, and seems to be regaining some of his control.


The A’s welcome the Astros to town after splitting a two game series with the Giants. While they had been tearing it up during the second half of the season, their fortunes have been literally back and forth recently. They are 4-4 in their last three series, having followed every win with a loss and vice versa. While it has been a grind for the A’s in recent games, they are a team that has gone on improbable stretches in the past, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them step it up a notch against the ‘Stros. Their offense will need to find some consistency however, as the team tends has been oscillating between big offensive outbursts and 2 or less runs.

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Stephen Piscotty has been the hot bat this week for Oakland, having mashed a couple of home runs while slashing .400/.438/.800. That performance is a little out of character for Piscotty, who’s been having a slightly-below-average campaign in 2019.

While Piscotty has certainly been the hottest A this week, Robbie Grossman, Matt Chapman, and Chad Pinder have all been swinging it as well. Their OPS’s range from 1.092 for Pinder up to 1.181 for Grossman and all have at least a homer on the week. Chapman has been on a power surge with 3 homers, including two in yesterday’s game.

Matt Olson and David Garneau round out the A’s best hitters in the past week, though they haven’t been nearly as elite as the other four mentioned.

Though he’s had a bit of a down week, Matt Canha has had a fine offensive season at first base and is a big power threat in the Oakland’s lineup. Marcus Seimien is probably the best of the remaining hitters who are currently active, and hehas been slightly above-average for the season.

The A’s offense seems to profile as one with power but not great on base skills. They are just outside the top ten in the league when it comes to slugging and OPS, but fall almost to the bottom ten when it comes to average and OBP. Overall it’s a little behind the high-octane offense that saw the A’s compete with the Astros for the division last year, but they are still quite dangerous at the plate.

Injury Note: Ramon Laureano has been one of the better and more surprising offensive players for the A’s this season. Unfortunately, his breakout season is on hold while he deals with a leg issue and he shouldn’t be a factor during this series.

Oakland Athletics v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The A’s bullpen is ordered a little different since last we faced them, having seen their previous ace closer Blake Treinen drop out of the 9th inning role after going on the IL. It came mostly as a response to current closer Liam Hendriks’ dominance while Treinen was out.

The move was also necessitated by the fact that Treinen has had some notable meltdowns this season and sits at a 4.74 ERA in 49.1 IP versus Hendriks’ 1.32 in 61.1. Treinen has had an absolutely awful August so far, having surrendered 6 runs in 5.1 innings.

As bad as Treinen has been, Lou Trivino has been worse. Previously the “1” in the A’s 1-2 punch at the back end of their pen, Trivino has also taken a massive step backward in 2019. In 49 innings he’s turned in an absolutely putrid 5.14 ERA as well as a .270 BAA and a 1.57 WHIP.

Speaking of taking steps back, Joakim Soria seems to have also begun to wobble lately after seeming to be on his way to a higher-leverage role this season. Giving up 4 runs in 0.1 innings during yesterday’s game certainly didn’t help.

Out of the remaining arms in the bullpen, perennial workhorse Yusmeiro Petit has been the best. In 61.1 innings he’s managed a .209 BAA and a stingy 0.85 WHIP. Also notable is Wei-Chung Wang, who has really opened some eyes after a fringy career that has flipped back and forth between the states and Asian baseball leagues.

Pitching Match Ups

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

Game 1: Aaron Sanchez, RHP (5-14, 5.60 ERA) vs Mike Fiers, RHP (11-3, 3.30 ERA)

Aaron Sanchez makes this start after a couple of strong appearances for his new team. Sanchez has looked a lot more like the pitcher he was a few years back in his two games with Houston, having gone 11 total innings and only surrendered a single run. He’s only given up 4 hits during that time, but has also walked 5. Sanchez faced Oakland in back-to-back starts while he was still with Toronto back in April. Though he didn’t have a whole lot of length, he did manage to hold the A’s to just two runs across 9 innings, one of which was unearned.

Mike Fiers takes the mound for Oakland in the midst of one of his best seasons of his career. He has seemingly tamed the homerun issues that were plaguing him with Houston and is on pace to log a sub-3.50 ERA for the entire season, which would be the first time he’s managed that as a pro. Fiers has faced Houston three times already this season, pitching quite well the last two times they faced off. He got into the later innings in both of those and only gave up 2 runs, but received a no-decision in each. He would get slapped around the first time the teams met in April, where they handed him his worst outing of the season at 6 runs surrendered across 1.2 innings.

Game 2: Justin Verlander, RHP (15-4, 2.82 ERA) vs Tanner Roark, RHP (7-8, 4.06 ERA)

Verlander makes this start after a bit of a grind his last time out against Baltimore. He gave up 4 runs in that one in just 5 innings, which was an uncharacteristic outing for the perennial Cy Young contender. He’ll look to bounce back and revive the roll he was on previous to his last game, which included 5 straight games of at least 6 innings with 2 or less earned runs. One of those starts was a dominant showing against the A’s where he went 6 innings of 1-(unearned)run ball. His other outing against them was also one of his best games of the year where he went 8 innings and only gave up 1 run.

The A’s will counter with newly-acquired Tanner Roark, who is making just his third start as a member of the Oakland squad. He’s looked good in his other starts for the A’s so far after a bit of a middling season with the Reds. He went 6.2 innings in his last game, which was against the White Sox, only giving up 3 runs, 2 earned. He also tossed 5 innings of 1-run ball in his first start in an A’s uniform. Roark has only faced Houston twice in a career spanning all the way back to 2013. His first was against the 2014 team so it’s not very relevant, and the 2017 WS championship team managed to hit him for 3 runs in 5.2 innings.

Game 3: TBD vs Chris Bassitt, RHP (8-5, 3.56 ERA)

Thanks to the late scratch of Gerrit Cole in Chicago, the starter of this game is currently up in the air. Cole has seemed optimistic about starting in Oakland, but AJ has pretty much said it won’t happen. Cy Sneed has been recalled and is currently sitting in the bullpen so he seems like an option to start this game. However, that may change depending on the circumstances on the ground and if he gets pressed into service during one of the first two games. If that happens expect another call up from AAA to make a spot start as the bullpen is somewhat taxed lately.

Bassitt makes this start after three straight quality starts against a couple of contenders and the White Sox. He only gave up 2 runs during the course of those three starts, both of which came against the Cubs a week and a half ago. His last start before those three was against the Astros, where he was a little roughed up with 4 earned runs across 6 innings. He did have another start against them back in June where things went better for him, giving up just 3 runs across 6 innings.

Game 4: Zack Greinke, RHP (12-4, 3.08 ERA) vs Brett Anderson, LHP (10-8, 3.95 ERA)

In his first two starts with the Astros, Greinke has turned in one performance that was marred by poor defense and then a gritty outing against the White Sox that ended in a win. Greinke will be shooting for his 200th career win in this game, which would put him on the same level as the only other two active pitchers with 200 wins: Verlander and Sabathia. Greinke will face Oakland for the first time this season, but did have a start against them last year where he tossed 6 innings of 2-run baseball but took the loss. That was first start against them in 6 years, so this particular A’s team has not seen a whole lot of Greinke.

Anderson will toe the slab for Oakland in the midst of a pretty good season for the A’s. His 3.95 ERA would be the best of his career if the season were to end today, and he’s helped to solidify the rotation for Oakland. Anderson has faced Houston once this season, surrendering three runs during 5.1 innings of work to eventually take the loss. He is most certainly not a strikeout artist, only averaging 4.60 K/9, which is the lowest rate in the league among qualifying pitchers. Even with the reliance on putting the ball in play, he still only has a .270 BABIP on the year.

(Not so) Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, August 15th @ 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: Friday, August 16th @ 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 3: Saturday, August 17th @ 3:05 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 / FS1

Game 4: Sunday, August 18th @ 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


Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (14 votes)
  • 33%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (58 votes)
  • 45%
    Series Split 2-2
    (80 votes)
  • 8%
    A’s Win 3-1
    (14 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Sweep 4-0
    (9 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now