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2020 Series Preview: Houston Astros @ Oakland Athletics

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The Astros (21-19, 2nd in AL West) stumble into Oakland for five games in four days against the A’s (23-14, 1st in AL West)

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Cody Glenn-USA TODAY Sports

All stats are prior to Oakland’s game against the Padres yesterday.

A’s Quick Notes

The A’s will welcome the Astros as the top team in the AL West and one of the better teams in all of baseball, though they are no longer owners of the “best team in the AL” status they enjoyed earlier this year. Oakland only recently returned to play after a week off thanks to a positive COVID test while they were playing the Astros last week. Because of that positive, one of the five games being played this week is a makeup one from that series.

The rest initially looked to have left some rust on the Athletics as they got womped 7-0 on Friday in a game against the Padres. Oakland stormed back the next day though, winning 8-4 in a Saturday match that was never really close. As we begin to move more into the month of September and closer to the playoffs, the A’s are still favored to reach October as the division winner in the West, though there is a roughly 1-in-4 chance that the Astros can chase them down.

Oakland continues to sport an offense that is more about power and patience than it is about average. Of course, with a week off there hasn’t been much of a chance to change that formula.

Former Astro Robbie Grossman continues to surprise as the team leader in OPS, slashing .255/.402/.532 heading into Sunday’s game. He also leads the team in doubles but after that he’s middle of the pack for most offensive categories. Mark Canha and Matt Chapman round out the top three in OPS after Grossman and are the only players with an OPS north of 800 who have been with the team since the start of the season.

As for players who haven’t been with the team since then, Tommy La Stella was recently brought over from the Angels to try and plug some of the minor holes in Oakland’s lineup. Slotting in at the 2-spot, La Stella is slashing .264/.359/.455 in 110 AB’s this season and certainly seems to match the A’s 2020 philosophy of getting on base and hitting for power.

That philosophy is really on display with the team leader in batting average Stephen Piscotty, who is sitting at .265 in 113 AB’s. He’s also tops in RBI with 27. The rest of the team leaders include Matt Chapman and Olson, who are tied at 10 for home runs, and Mark Canha with 22 runs on the year.

The Oakland bullpen remains one of the biggest strengths for the team and will usually win games for the A’s if the starter can hand them a lead late. The doubleheader scheduled for later this week might help the Astros to cut into that advantage, but the goal for Houston will need to be doing damage early. Oakland’s pen boasts a league-best 2.13 ERA and have only blown two save opportunities out of 15.

Since the A’s have only played three games since the Astros last saw them, the hierarchy hasn’t changed for the back end of the bullpen. Liam Hendricks remains the closer and has been strong for Oakland this season. Joakim Soria and Jake Diekman seem to be the go to arms late in the game, but there are plenty of names who are generating trust this season thanks to sparkling stats all around.

Mike Minor is the other big pickup that the A’s managed last week as the trade deadline loomed. With 5 games in 4 days the Astros will almost definitely see Minor’s debut in the A’s rotation, though he did toss an inning of relief in Friday’s game. Minor was considered one of the surprise stories of the 2019 season, starting out extremely strong and eventually ending the season with a 3.59 ERA mark in 208.1 innings. 2020 has not been as kind to him with the lefty sitting at 5.94 in 36.1 innings this season, which are numbers he hasn’t seen since his 2010 debut. He has surrendered at least 5 runs in 3 of his 7 starts, and 4 in another.

The other four starters will probably include some mix of Sean Manea, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, and Jesus Luzardo. Montas and Luzardo will be on the tail end of that after starting two of the three games against the Padres. Thanks to all the time off though, Bob Melvin will be allowed to structure his rotation however he wants for the other three starts.

One starter the Astros won’t see is Mike Fiers, who played in yesterday’s game against the Padres. This marks the third time that Fiers has managed to avoid pitching against the Astros this season, which is starting to feel less like a coincidence, but there you go.

While the A’s pen has been a strength for the team, the starting rotation has been decidedly less so. As a group they sport a 4.83 ERA and factor into the bottom half of most statistics when compared to the rest of the league. Chris Bassitt is the only pitcher currently in their rotation with an ERA below 4.00, with the next closest being Luzardo at 4.23.

Meanwhile, Sean Manea and Frankie Montas, who have both been previously hyped as future anchors in the rotation, are both sitting north of 5.00. Manea has improved since a disaster of a start against the Angels on August 10th though, but has yet to pitch through the 6th inning this season. Montas, however, has not looked good at all in his past three starts, including a clunker in Houston where he was tagged for five runs before being chased in the 4th inning. Since August 8th he has seen his ERA rise from 1.57 to 6.06.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Monday, September 7th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Athletics - KIQI 1010, A’s Cast, Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA

Game 2: Tuesday, September 8th @ 5:10 pm CDT*
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Athletics - A’s Cast, Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA
*Make up game from previous series, the Astros will be the home team for this game

Game 3: Tuesday, September 8th @ TBD*
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Athletics - KIQI 1010, A’s Cast, Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA
*Second game of a doubleheader

Game 4: Wednesday, September 9th @ 8:10 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2 / Athletics - KIQI 1010, A’s Cast, Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA

Game 5: Thursday, September 10th @ 2:40 pm CDT
Listen: Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, La Ranchera 101.7 FM/850 AM / Athletics - A’s Cast, Bloomberg 960 AM
Watch: Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / Athletics - NBCSCA

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Astros Sweep 5-0
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    Astros Win 4-1
    (4 votes)
  • 20%
    Astros Win 3-2
    (15 votes)
  • 28%
    A’s Win 3-2
    (21 votes)
  • 20%
    A’s Win 4-1
    (15 votes)
  • 15%
    A’s Sweep 5-0
    (11 votes)
73 votes total Vote Now