clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Series Preview #38: Houston Astros @ Baltimore Orioles

New, 6 comments

The Astros (75-40, 1st in AL West) start a ten game road trip with three against the hapless Orioles (38-76, 5th in AL East)

Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles - Game Two Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Recency Bias

Astros

The Astros are riding high as they arrive in Charm City, having won 6 games and series in a row now, including two straight sweeps. The offense absolutely shredded opposing pitching during the 5 game homestand, scoring 47 runs in those contests. Pitching has also been on a higher level, making the Astros into one of the most complete teams in baseball at the moment. The team is now 10 games ahead of the second place A’s in the division and really just a couple of weeks of hot play away from putting it out of reach. They’ll have their chance to get a leg up on that during this trip, playing against a couple of bottom feeders in the form of the Orioles and White Sox, before taking on the A’s in Oakland.

Colorado Rockies v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

As I said above, the bats have been absolutely on fire this past week, especially in the two-game series against the Rockies. Those games were highlighted by an absolutely unconscious Yuli Gurriel, who tied a team record with an 8-RBI night to go with 11 total across the series. He also managed to launch 3 of the 4 hits he had in those game out of the ballpark, and the 4th was a double.

Of course he couldn’t have had all those RBI’s without someone to get on base in front of him, and Alex Bregman was just the man for the job. Not only did he have an OBP of .556 this week, he also clubbed 4 doubles, a triple, and a homer.

Yordan Alvarez also continued to make noise this week as bolstered his case for AL RotY. He slashed a gaudy .478/.519/.870 on the week and added two more HR’s to his already-impressive totals.

Honestly, it’s an embarrassment of riches for the offense right now with Correa, Altuve, and Springer all producing at elite levels. Both Correa and Springer have an OPS higher than .900 on the season and Altuve is just inches short with one at .898.

Brantley also had a good week, though not as good as most of his other teammates. Either way, it’s good to see him shaking him off the funk that he was in a couple of weeks ago as his bat seems to be coming alive once again.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Houston Astros Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

To continue the theme of excellent pitching, the bullpen once again turned in a great performance this past week. Not only did they participate in three innings of a no-hit ball against the Mariners, the group also managed to hold opponents to just 2 runs in the past 17 innings.

Biagini and Devo were the unlucky two to give up those runs on their watch, but they also saw the second most amount of innings as anyone with 3 each.

McHugh saw the most work at 4 innings and the Astros have pledged to give him more time to work on some delivery issues that are plaguing him. This seems to include command problems as he gave up 5 walks in those 4 innings, but at least balanced it with 5 strikeouts.

Other than that there’s not much to report. Joe Smith continuing to look good on his return from injury and Will Harris keeping up with one of his best seasons as a MLB reliever are probably the biggest additional lines from this week.

Injury Note: Ryan Pressly is currently being evaluated in Houston after completing a couple of rehab outings. There’s a chance he’ll be activated during the series against the Orioles if all goes well.

Orioles

The Orioles are in a bad place as they open this series against the Astros. They’re the 29th-worst team in the league by record and are well on their way to a second consecutive 100-loss season. They just got the stuffing beat out of them by the Yankees in a brutal, one-sided sweep where they were outscored 32-12 in three games. To top it all off, “slugger” Chris Davis got into a dugout argument with manager Brandon Hyde during the finale of that series and had to restrained after lunging at him, all of which was caught on camera. Of course, the team is not hiding the fact that they’re in the midst of a complete tear down, so moments like that are hardly surprising.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles’ brightest spot on a shabby offense has probably been Trey Mancini, who broke out in a big way back in 2017 before fading a little in the following season. He’s put together a good one this year though he’s not really what one would consider elite. Still, Mancini has managed to lead the team in slugging and holds a .278/.338/.537 slash line in that time. He’s also been hot lately, having mashed 2 doubles and three homers this week.

Anthony Santander is just behind Mancini when it comes to production, but has only played in half as many games. That’s due to the fact that he spent a good chunk of the season in the minors before being recalled in early June. Since then he’s turned in a .295/.335/.483 performance, making him the second biggest threat for the Orioles.

Unfortunately for Baltimore, they really have to settle for above average as their best options when it comes to the rest of their offense. Pedro Severino and Renato Núñez fill that role admirably for the O’s, though Severino is part time as a catcher and Núñez relies more on power than average to do his dirty work.

Old friend Jonathan Villar has also been having a decent season and has actually been pretty hot as of late, having hit for the cycle just a few games ago. Hanser Alberto has also been somewhat decent for the Orioles this season, though not very exciting.

These two players have probably been the biggest bats in recent play. Villar in particular has been on a power surge, having hit two doubles, triples, and home runs in the past week. The talent level for Baltimore really begins to slide off at that point, though, with no one sporting an OPS above .750 for 2019.

As one would expect, the Orioles’ offense is pretty bad as a unit, hovering just within or near the bottom five in most traditional categories for the league.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles are currently running a closer-by-committee situation, which makes sense considering that there are so very few save opportunities so you don’t want to commit one guy to sit and wait for them. Mychal Givens is the de facto closer only in the sense that he is the reliever who sees the highest leverage situations for the O’s.

Of course it’s all relative as Givens has a 4.17 ERA, which is the second-best mark in the Oriole’s pen. A good piece of that is due to a 5-run outing against the Yankees back in May, but Givens is definitely susceptible to giving up runs on a regular basis.

Shawn Armstrong and Paul Fry are the other two relievers who most often see high leverage work out of Baltimore’s pen. Armstrong is a former Mariner who the Orioles nabbed off of wavers back in May. He’s been one of their better relievers in that time and has managed to work to a team-best 4.10 ERA. He’s also the only reliever with a BAA under .200.

As for Fry, he’s the only other reliever for the Orioles with an ERA under 4.50 and more than 20 innings under his belt. He sees a lot of work actually, lagging just behind Givens at 43 innings.

Miguel Castro has been the Orioles’ workhorse in 2019, seeing the most use of any other reliever. He’s tossed 54.2 innings this season mostly due to pitching between 1 to 2 innings regularly.

Baltimore’s biggest issue with its pen is the fact that, like pretty much all of the pitching staff, they’re susceptible to giving up the long ball. They’re more or less the reason the Yankees are second in the league with 203 homers, and now they will have to contend with the third-best home run team in the form of the Astros.

Pitching Match Ups

Seattle Mariners v Houston Astros Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Game 1: Wade Miley, LHP (10-4, 3.05 ERA) vs Dylan Bundy, RHP (5-11, 5.15 ERA)

Wade Miley continues to be one of the better signings of the 2019 offseason as he has turned in steady performance after steady performance. He’s only given up more than 3 earned runs in 2 of his 23 starts this season, which is the best mark by any pitcher who isn’t an opener. He’s been on a roll in his last seven starts in particular, where he is 4-0 with a 2.09 ERA. Miley has already faced the O’s once this season and came away the winner after 6 innings of shutout ball.

Baltimore will send Dylan Bundy to the mound hoping to get some length out of him due to a taxed bullpen. Unfortunately, length has not been Bundy’s specialty as he has only made it through the 6th inning in 15 of his 21 starts this year. Like so many others this year, Bundy is also giving up the long ball at an impressive rate, to go with a rather cumbersome 3.16 BB/9. It should be noted that Bundy did play a decent game against the Astros earlier this season where he tossed 6 innings while only giving up 2 earned runs. Starts are like that are more the exception than the rule though.

Game 2: Aaron Sanchez, RHP (4-14, 5.76 ERA) vs Aaron Brooks, RHP (2-5, 5.45 ERA)

There will be eyes on this game to see if Sanchez can replicate the performance that led him to pitch 6 innings of no-hit baseball in his Astros debut. He has a good draw by facing off against the Orioles, though he’s only seen his former division rivals once in 24 starts this year. It was one of his better starts of the year though, going 5 innings and holding them to just 2 runs, but he also walked 4. Sanchez made an excellent first impression in his game against Seattle, but he’ll need to turn in a few more dominant starts if he wants to earn more of the Astros’ trust going forward.

Meanwhile, Aaron Brooks will take the mound still looking for his first win in Baltimore this season. Brooks started out the year in the A’s rotation before being reassigned to the pen in May. He had a decent month of June before being ultimately DFA’d by the A’s, where the Orioles were able to pick him up. He’s had five starts for the Orioles so far that have been pretty awful. To be fair, it appears as though he’s getting stretched out as a starter during that time, but he’s been touched up for 14 earned runs across 19 innings with 13 K’s to 7 BB’s.

Game 3: Justin Verlander, RHP (15-4, 2.68 ERA) vs Asher Wojciechowski, RHP (2-5, 4.89 ERA)

Verlander closes this series while in the midst of yet another sparkling season for the ageless veteran. He’s had double-digit strikeouts in his last 4 games straight and is now sitting at 22 total since joining the Astros in 2017. He’s also currently on a 5-game quality start streak. Verlander recently became the 7th pitcher in MLB history to post nine seasons with 200-plus strikeouts. This will be his first time facing off against Baltimore in 2019.

Former Astros farmhand Asher Wojciechowski has been bouncing around the league since being DFA’d by Houston in 2015. He’s pitched minor league games for the Diamondbacks, Reds, Orioles, and White Sox in that time before starting 2019 in the Indians system. He was later traded to the Orioles and has been in Baltimore’s rotation ever since. He was roughed up a bit in his last two starts, giving up 4 and then 5 runs to Toronto and the Yankees, respectively. Asher’s peripheral numbers suggest that he’s actually been the beneficiary of some good luck so far this season, so the past two games may be the beginning of some regression for him.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Friday, August 9th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN 2

Game 2: Saturday, August 10th @ 6:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN 2

Game 3: Sunday, August 11th @ 12:05 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 850 AM / Orioles - Orioles Radio Network
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Orioles - MASN 2

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 78%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (201 votes)
  • 18%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (47 votes)
  • 1%
    Orioles Win 2-1
    (4 votes)
  • 1%
    Orioles Sweep 3-0
    (4 votes)
256 votes total Vote Now