The Houston Astros (22-32) return to Minute Maid Park for a 7-game homestand beginning on May 29th. The Baltimore Orioles (26-25) will be in town, guests of MLB’s Civil Rights game on Friday, for a four-game set against the Astros. Three games earlier this month could be a bit of a series preview as the Astros outscored the Orioles 12 to 11 but ultimately lost 1 of 3 at Camden Yards.
Coming home after a 6-4 road trip, the Astros look to continue their 5-game winning streak against a team that has struggled recently. The Orioles had briefly led the AL East prior to a slump that began in mid-May. In their last ten games they have a record of 4-6 including losing their last two visiting the Brewers in Milwaukee. Their stop in Houston is the second stop of a three series trip. Unfortunately, ex-Astro Bud Norris will not be available to pitch in this series, as he pitched last night in an 8-3 loss to the Brewers.
Part of the Astros success not only on the recent road trip, but the month of May, has been their excellent pitching. Dallas Keuchel, who won AL Player of the week recently, will look to continue his success for game 3 on Saturday. He has essentially pitched as an Ace, winning his last three starts while throwing 26 2/3 innings yielding just 3 runs. Tony Sipp has been fantastic out of the bullpen. For the month of May, Astros pitching has combined for a 13-13 record with a 3.65 ERA.
But the pitching staff has not been the only key to the Astros recent success. The hitting has been astronomical. Since the series in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago, the club has recorded 11 hits or more 11 times. This is a span of 18 games. MLB’s leader in hits, Jose Altuve, is part of that awesome run. But not enough can be said about George Springer. After a miserable first two weeks in the big leagues, Springer has hit the ball hard and far. Through 37 games George already has 9 homers, with 6 of those coming in the last 6 games.
Game 1 (First Pitch: 7:10 CST):
BAL: Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 4.98)
HOU: Brad Peacock (1-4, 5.20)
Peacock’s ERA is a little deceiving. He did not pitch well nor past the 6th inning early in the season. But prior to some forearm soreness that led to him being scratched in Seattle, Brad had pitched decently. Jimenez yielded 5 runs in each of his last two starts. Houston should be able to leap on this guy early.
Game 2 (First Pitch 7:10 CST):
BAL: Miguel Gonzalez (3-3, 4.35)
HOU: Brett Oberholtzer (1-6, 5.32)
Obie came back from Triple-A and pitched excellent following a rocky beginning. He managed his first win of the season, throwing 6 innings and striking out 8 Mariners. His success could continue as the Orioles are batting .249 against LHP starters this season. Gonzalez has thrown 3 straight quality starts with a 2 inning outing from the bullpen in between. The first of those 3 came against the Astros earlier this month. With Friday night being the Civil Rights Game and potentially a large audience, this game has a lot of potential to be a low-scoring affair.
Game 3 (First Pitch 3:10 CST):
BAL: Chris Tillman (4-2, 4.97)
HOU: Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.55)
Keuchel has been superb of late. Will he shake hands with Corporan this Saturday? He did not pitch when the Astros were in Baltimore. I am a little concerned, however, as Orioles hitters have combined to a .269 average against the lefty. The Ace of the Orioles has been pitching into lots of trouble recently. He and the Orioles are likely coming to Houston looking to get back on track. But this series is all about kicking those who are already down. Chris took the loss last time he pitched against Houston, giving up three earned runs in five innings pitched.
Game 4 (First Pitch 1:10 CST):
BAL: Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 4.50)
HOU: Scott Feldman (3-2, 3.02)
Feldman has not pitched as well as he did beginning the season. I am a little concerned with the amount of hits he has yielded in his last few starts. His ERA sits just over 3 but a FIP of 4.15 is closer to his career 4.54 ERA. Last time against Baltimore, Scott threw a quality start with 6 strikeouts and worked around 2 solo home runs. Chen threw 7 innings of two-run ball against the ‘Stros a couple of weeks ago. The Red Sox and Yankees jumped on him in his last two outings. Maybe the Astros could rattle him further by putting some squiggly numbers on the board early.
Series Preview Prediction:
A 5-game winning streak would look a lot better with a 9 in front of that hyphen. With the Astros offense being on fire lately, a four-game sweep is probably not out of reach facing a slumping club. But this is a team with tremendous offensive power that includes Nelson Cruz, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Nick Markakis. All in all, I expect the Astros to split this series.