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2019 Series Preview #47: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (94-50, 1st in AL West) face off against the Athletics (84-59, 2nd in AL West) for the final time in 2019

MLB: JUL 24 Athletics at Astros Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Snapshot

Athletics

The A’s arrive in the Houston in the midst of three-way fight for two wild card spots along with the Indians and Rays. They’re currently in control of the second spot and just a game behind Tampa Bay for the first, but the Indians and Rays have been playing good baseball lately and keeping the pressure on Oakland. The A’s have kept up easily though, employing one of their characteristic second-half pushes to stay firmly in control of their playoff destinies. They also still have an outside chance at the division but time is growing short and Oakland will probably need to sweep the Astros in their own stadium, something that no team has done this year.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Third baseman Matt Chapman continues to lead the way for the A’s, making things happen at both the plate and with the glove. In addition to being a black hole along the line, Chapman leads the team in both home runs (32) and RBI (80).

The rest of the offense for the A’s can certainly bring the pain though, with Mark Canha, Matt Olson and Marcus Smeian all being names to circle in the lineup. There’s also former Astros farmhand turned rookie sensation Ramon Laureano, who just recently made his return from the IL. He’s had a couple of knocks in as many games since coming back.

As for the bullpen, Liam Hendriks continues his breakout season as the A’s closer. He has been absolutely ridiculous with a 1.45 ERA, .194 BAA and 0.91 WHIP in 74.1 innings. You can also expect to see Yusmeiro Petit in high leverage situations, who has been almost as good, and Joakim Soria, who has not been nearly as good.

Astros

The Astros are deep in the hunt for home field advantage, running neck and neck with the Yankees as they come into this series. To add to that, their magic number for the AL West currently sits at 10 and they have a chance to break the club record for wins in a season. All of those are reason enough for the team to keep their foot on the gas. The Astros have absolutely pummeled the AL West in Houston this year, and I’m not just talking about yesterday’s 21-1 drubbing of the Mariners. They are 27-2 against their division in Minute Maid Park this year, including a 5-1 record at home against the A’s.

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

Alex Bregman has been on fire lately as he continues to put up MVP-level numbers in recent play. He now has 100 RBI’s and walks to go with 110 runs this year, which makes him the third Astro ever to hit the century mark in those categories during a single season. His 34 homers now lead the club along with his 100 RBI’s.

Of course the Astros’ offense is high octane and there are sky-high numbers being thrown around all over the place. Michael Brantley seems to have broken out of his slump and continues to lead the team in batting average at .321. Rookie Abraham Toro has also looked good in limited time as has Kyle Tucker, who finally popped his first big-league home run against Seattle in the most recent series.

The Astros’ bullpen has had a decent week, especially in light of having to cover for an ineffective Wade Miley in game 1 against the Mariners. It does help that the bullpen has been filled out a little with September call ups and that a couple of those arms can go extra innings if needed. With the dominance of Verlander and Cole this week they haven’t had to do much duty recently, but have been effective when deployed.

Pitching Match Ups

Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Game 1: Mike Fiers, RHP (14-3, 3.51 ERA) vs Zack Greinke, RHP (14-5, 3.09 ERA)

Fiers makes the start as the winner of his last 12 consecutive decisions and hasn’t been handed an L since May 1st. But he did have to grind in his last start against the Angels, giving up 4 runs across 5 innings. While he will have starts where his command is elusive and he walks a bit of a tight rope, you can’t argue that Fiers is the ace of this staff and has turned his career around in Oakland. He was roughed up the last time he faced the Astros, surrendering 5 runs across 6 innings of work in that one, including 4 home runs.

Greinke has not looked great in his last couple of starts for the Astros, giving up 5 and then 4 runs to the Rays and Brewers, respectively. He now has a 3.86 ERA in his six starts as an Astro and will look to bounce back against a tough opponent. However, his best start in a Houston uniform did come during his third when he went up against these same A’s. He would twirl 7 innings of 1-run ball in that one, striking out 6.

Game 2: Tanner Roark, RHP (9-8, 3.86 ERA) vs Wade Miley, LHP (13-4, 3.35 ERA)

Tanner Roark has turned into a solid pickup for the A’s and has helped to steady out the rotation behind Fiers. He had perhaps his best start as an Athletic in his last game, having tossed 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. He also looked good in his lone start against the Astros this year where he went 6 innings, holding Houston to just 2 runs. The Astros did have their chances in that one though, as they were able to get 9 men on base against Roark.

Miley makes this start after a bit of a disaster outing against the Mariners where he was yanked after allowing five runs on five hits and a walk without recording an out. Miley has been suffering command issues in recent games and has already had a few games where things just seem to snowball out of control for him. Even with all that he still sits at a respectable ERA on the year and has a chance to right the ship before heading into the playoffs.

Game 3: Brett Anderson, LHP (11-9, 4.08 ERA) vs TBD

Anderson has been the other steady part of the rotation for the A’s this season behind Mike Fiers. He is quite capable of delivering a quality start but does have a few clunkers to his name this year. Anderson sports one of the worst K/9 rates in the league at 4.53, so the Astros should certainly be able to put it in play against him. He had to grind in his last start against Houston, tossing just 5 innings and giving up four runs, and had a similar outing his first time against them.

The Astros’ bullpen will serve a larger role for the rest of the season as the club has announced that they will go with a 4-man rotation. They have also announced that this will be a bullpen game for those reasons. Depending on who is needed in the first half of the series I wouldn’t be surprised to see some combination of Sneed, Urguidy, and Valdez to cover the bulk of the innings in this game. This will be the first of what the Astros have said will be two bullpen games in September.

Game 4: Homer Bailey, RHP (12-8, 4.87 ERA) vs Justin Verlander, RHP (18-5, 2.52 ERA)

Homer Bailey will take the ball after a string of good starts for the A’s, who I’m sure are happy to see that after his disastrous debut with the team. Since coming over from the Royals, Bailey has a 4.98 ERA in 10 starts with a big chunk of that coming from his appearance against the Astros. He only tossed 2 innings in the one while getting shelled for 9 runs. There was one other start like that against the Cubs for him, but Bailey has been mostly solid otherwise.

Justin Verlander is on a Cy Young and Hall of Fame trajectory this season. He is 30 strikeouts away from 3,000 for his career with four more cracks at it before the regular season ends. JV entered another gear in mid-August and has been absolutely ridiculous in his last five starts. During that time he’s tossed a no-hitter, had three double-digit strikeout games, struck out 47 batters while only walking 2, and sports a 1.21 ERA and 0.43 WHIP in 37.1 innings. All of that even with getting run early from a game by the home plate ump. Utter dominance.

Fun Fact

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, September 9th @ 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, September 10th @ 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 3: Wednesday, September 11th @ 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 4: Thursday, September 12th @ 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

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Astros Sweep 4-0
    (22 votes)
  • 50%
    Astros Win 3-1
    (101 votes)
  • 30%
    Series Split 2-2
    (61 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Win 3-1
    (11 votes)
  • 2%
    A’s Sweep 4-0
    (4 votes)
199 votes total Vote Now