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2021 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (5-1, 1st in AL West) open Minute Maid Park for 2021 with a three game set against the Athletics (1-6, 5th in AL West)

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros - Game Two Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

A’s Quick Notes

The Narrative

The A’s arrive in Houston after an absolutely horrendous first week of baseball that they were just barely able to salvage with a 10th inning win in yesterday’s game. Even with that win, the entire Oakland team has pretty much been in shambles over the past 7 games, with an anemic offense and a pitchers who are struggling to deliver outs.

To put it mildly, the schedule hasn’t done them any favors to begin the season. Their first four games were against the Astros, widely considered to the favorites in the AL West, followed by three against the Dodgers and then another three against the Astros, all with no days off. They will get Sunday off before heading to Arizona to start next week, which I bring up mainly to point out how weird it is that there is a scheduled day off on Sunday.

While it’s still extremely early in the season, the A’s have done a fine job of digging themselves a hole in the division and putting their status as the heir to the AL West crown in jeopardy. It’s fair to point out that they have been hit with a number of injuries in recent days, but nobody is really playing up to their potential on the A’s right now.

On top of all that, all the moves the A’s made in the offseason have yet to pay any real dividends for Oakland. Elvis Andrus in particular has shown himself to be a poor replacement for Marcus Semien at the plate. At the same time Trevor Rosenthal, himself the seeming replacement for Liam Hendriks, will probably need surgery, putting him on the shelf at a time when the A’s pen is struggling.

Once more I’m compelled to point out that we’ve only been playing baseball for a week, so it’s still too early to be burying the A’s season. But the fact is that they haven’t really shown a whole lot of life. They may have squeaked out a win in yesterday’s game against the Dodgers, but the A’s have had the feel of a team back on their heels since the beginning of the season.

Of course, that walk off win might be what’s needed to spark some momentum for them, but that won’t happen... right?

The Offense

There is not much to be happy about when it comes to the A’s offense so far in 2021, including the fact that Chad Pinder, their hottest hitter to start the season, is on the IL after he sprained his left knee.

They’ve barely managed to average slightly over two runs per game so far this year and, as a team, they’re slashing just .168/.265/.264. Their power is pretty much nonexistent with just 13 extra base hits in 220 AB’s and they remain near the bottom of the rankings in almost every offensive category.

The only player who has bucked that trend and is not currently on the IL is former Astros farm hand Ramon Laureano, who is tied for second on the team with 5 hits even though he’s only played in 4 games so far. He has also been a terror on the base paths, racking up 4 steals so far on the young season.

After that it’s been a real team effort when it comes to being incompetent. Mark Canha probably gets the prize for being the least terrible thanks to the virtue of having an average OPS. He also has 3 of the A’s extra base hits, including a double, triple, and home run.

Old Friend Jed Lowrie is probably the next best player on the team, but that has more to do with being the only other player with an OBP north of .300. Well, that and being third in RBI, but only with 2. Speaking of, Mitch Moreland and Matt Chapman currently lead the team with 3 RBI each.

Special mention here to Elvis Andrus, who has been absolutely putrid so far in 2021. He is slashing a paltry .042/.040/.083 and has just 1 hit, which was a double at least, in 24 AB’s. Yikes.

The Bullpen

The A’s bullpen has been roiled after big offseason acquisition Trevor Rosenthal was placed on the IL with shoulder inflammation. It’s looking increasingly likely he will be having surgery, which would put him on the shelf for at least the first half the season, possibly longer. It appears as though Jake Diekman will be stepping into the role of closer, but it’s hard to be sure as the A’s have had no save opportunities so far this season.

Practically speaking though, Lou Trivino has probably been Oakland’s best reliever so far. He’s already pitched 5.2 innings across 4 games an has only given up a single run in that time.

Yusmeiro Petit has been Melvin’s other work horse, which is a role he has filled in the past, so expect to see him eat some innings in Houston. He is also the proud owner of the A’s sole Win on the pitching staff.

After that you can expect to see Sergio Romo in high leverage situations. He hasn’t really been that impressive to start the season, having already given up two runs in four innings to go with 3 walks and just 1 strikeout.

Honestly, the bullpen unit as a whole has been just awful. As a group they sport a 1.73 WHIP and .279 BAA, good for bottom five in the league in both stats. They’ve given up the most walks of any bullpen in baseball and rank in the bottom three for hits and runs surrendered. Of course, Oakland’s starting pitching hasn’t really done them any favors, as the bullpen has had to cover 30.2 innings across their first 7 games.

I feel like a broken record saying that it’s still early in the season, but the theme of this preview appears to be Oakland is just digging itself an early hole and hoping they can climb out sooner rather than later. Good teams usually do at some point, so let’s not count them out just yet.

The Starters

Cole Irvin (LHP, 0-1, 8.31 ERA, 2 K’s) will be first out of the gate for Oakland and is starting for the second time in a row against the Astros. Irvin was victimized his last time out as the Astros were able to hang 4 runs on him and chased him early in the 5th inning. Things won’t get any easier for him as he helps the Astros to open MMP to what should be a boisterous home crowd.

Sean Manaea (LHP, 0-1, 9.64 ERA, 4 K’s), like Irvin, will be making his second straight start against the Astros to open the season. Also like Irvin, Manaea had his clock cleaned by the Astros in his first start, surrendering 5 runs along with 2 homers. He did go one third of an inning farther though, ending his day on 4.2 IP.

Frankie Montas (RHP, 0-1, 23.63 ERA, 4 K’s) will march to the bump in the finale after an absolutely awful start against the Dodgers. Montas was only able to make it to 2.2 IP in that one and gave up seven runs before he was yanked. Originally scheduled to be the #3 starter, Montas had his 2021 debut pushed back thanks to a laceration on one of the fingers on his pitching hand.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Thursday, April 8th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - Bloomberg 960 AM, A’s Cast / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / MLB Network (out-of-market only)

Game 2: Friday, April 9th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - Bloomberg 960 AM, A’s Cast / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Athletics - NBCSCA / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW+

Game 3: Saturday, April 10th @ 3:05 pm CDT
Listen: Athletics - Bloomberg 960 AM, A’s Cast / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: FS1

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Astros Sweep 3-0
    (84 votes)
  • 46%
    Astros Win 2-1
    (83 votes)
  • 5%
    A’s Win 2-1
    (9 votes)
  • 2%
    A’s Sweep 3-0
    (4 votes)
180 votes total Vote Now