The Astros arrive in Oakland at .500, 6-6 and 2.5 games behind the AL West leaders, the Oakland A’s, at 9-4.
Although the Astros are second in MLB in team hitting, with a wRC+ of 125, and the Athletics are rated only 16th, complete disarray in the pitching staff has kept the Astros mired near the .500 mark all of this short season. The Astros currently rely on 10 rookies in their staff, eight relievers and two starters. Thanks to surprising performances by many of them the Astros are still 16th in MLB in team ERA, at 4.39, but the A’s are 5th, at 3.05.
To win this series the Astros bats are going to have to keep producing.
Tonight the Astros face the red-hot Chris Bassitt, who in two starts and 9.2 innings has one win and a 0.93 ERA.
The Astros send veteran Zack Greinke, who in two starts has no record but a 5.00 ERA. His fastball velocity has dropped to 87 mph, so Greinke has to maintain utmost command and contol, and successfully mix his pitches and location to remain effective.
Life doesn’t get any easier for the Astros on Saturday. They face the A’s ace, Frankie Montas, 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA. The Astros counter with Framber Valdez, whose scoreless six inning, winning relief stint Sunday in Anaheim gives Astros fans great hope that Valdez has finally overcome the command problems that have limited the effectiveness of his crazy good stuff.
The Astros face another very good, young pitcher on Sunday, Jesus Lazardo, no record, but a 2.31 ERA in 11.2 innings. The Astros have their own rookie phenom on the mound, Cristian Javier, 1-0, with a 1.42 ERA in 12.2 innings pitched.
Leading the rather weak attack for the A’s thus far are mainly four batters, two of whom are familiar as Astros products. At the top...as I shake my head...is Ramon Laureano, traded by the Astros for Brandon Bailey. He sits with a .945 OPS, 166 wRC+ and three homers.
The other former Astro among the offensive leaders of the A’s is fan favorite Tony Kemp, albeit in a part time role. He has a 127 wRC+.
The other two bats to watch in the A’s lineup are Mark Canha and Matt Olson, each over 150 wRC+.
The most feared bat in the A’s lineup, that of 3B Matt Chapman, has not gotten untracked yet. His OPS is barely north of .600.
If the Astros sweep this series they take back first place in the AL West. If the A’s sweep, they take a commanding 5.5 game lead. These two teams look like the class of the AL West, so every one of their games takes on heightened importance.
For Your listening and viewing enjoyment
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM 94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM. Athletics: - A cast KIQI 1010. Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT Sportsnet SW. Athletics - NBCSCA
Who will win the series
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