Scott Feldman (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Series Preview: Boston Red Sox at Houston Astros

Yesterday the Houston Astros had their first off day in quite some time. Perhaps the rest and playing at home will lead them to a series win over another struggling team in the American League. Following back-to-back walkoffs at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have a 41-51 record while the Astros sport a 39-54 record. Both teams are in 4th place of their respective divisions.

Series Schedule:

Friday, July 11th: RHP John Lackey (9-6, 3.84 ERA) vs RHP Scott Feldman (4-5, 3.86 ERA)

Saturday, July 12th: RHP Jake Peavy (1-7, 4.64 ERA) vs TBA

Sunday, July 13th: RHP Clay Buchholz (3-5, 6.11 ERA) vs TBA

Who do the Houston Astros have to start?

Last Sunday Collin McHugh only pitched 4 innings in the Astros loss in Anaheim. His early departure from the game was primarily due to a blister on one of his fingers, on his pitching hand. I am guessing this is why the Saturday and Sunday starters have not been announced yet as the Astros are waiting to see if he will be eligible to pitch Saturday. Jarred Cosart last pitched on Monday, in Arlington, and his next start in the rotation would be Sunday if McHugh were eligible to pitch Saturday. I think that with the off day Cosart should be ready to go on Saturday.

David Martinez pitched in relief on Sunday in Anaheim and might be available to start Saturday as he has not pitched since.

Here are Cosart’s numbers in case he does make a start this weekend: 9-6, 4.17 ERA. In his last appearance he did earn a win though he pitched just 5 innings and allowed 6 runs with 5 of them being earned.

Buccholz for the Red Sox has appeared to have his share of struggles. But he has actually seen his ERA drop from 7.02 to the 6.11 mark during his last three starts.

Will this be a high scoring series?

Probably not. The Red Sox, despite having David Ortiz in their lineup, are dead last for runs scored in the American League. The Astros are not that far ahead, however, as the differential is just 16 runs. Houston has played 93 games this season while Boston has 92 games so far. Their averages for runs scored are 3.76 for the visiting Red Sox and 3.89 for the hometown Houston Astros.

Overall this series appears to be pretty balanced. Over the last 30 games the Red Sox are 13-17 while the Astros are 12-18. The Red Sox, on the road, are 7 games under .500 while the Astros are 6 games under .500 while playing at home. But I think those are to be expected with two teams that are near the bottom of their divisions.

Houston Astros Surprise Rookie

Enrique Hernandez
(Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)

Rookie Fever

The Houston Astros are continuing their rebuilding process through the playing time of George Springer, Jon Singleton, and Kike Hernandez to name a few. But who could have expected the 2013 World Champions to have so many rookies on this years’ squad? It’s true. Brock Holt is arguably the most impressive so far with Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, Jr. also receiving a fair share of playing time. Mookie Betts was recently promoted to the show.

On the pitching side of things Collin McHugh has turned in dominant starts this season. Jeff Luhnow did a fantastic job in claiming him off of waivers this past offseason.

The Red Sox have had five rookies in their starting lineup in recent days for the first time since 1987.

Q & A

In preparation for the series we have been talking back and forth with Drew Peabody of BoSox Injection. Greg answered a few questions for Drew and here’s what Drew had to say when asked about the 2014 Sox team.

CTH: A.J. Pierzynski was recently designated for assignment. I know the Sox have Ryan Lavarnway on the 60-day D.L. What is the plan for the catching position moving forward?

Drew: At least for the rest of this season, it is going to be defensive whiz
and recent call-up Christian Vazquez behind the plate four days a week, and journeyman David Ross three days a week (including all Jon Lester’s starts) for the rest of the season.  Vazquez turned heads
during Spring Training with some laser throws and threw out around 40
percent of runners trying to steal while Pierzynski was around 19
percent. Lavarnway has been playing some first in the minors and is
not particularly gifted as a catcher and he has not hit for power as
they had hoped,so he could be moved as part of a bigger trade package
depending on if the Red Sox go into full sell mode before July 31.
Dan Butler (2015) and Blake Swihart (2016) should be ready soon so the
position is one of strength for the Red Sox who felt they could let
someone of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s offensive abilities walk for a
longer contract.

CTH: What the heck happened to Clay Buchholz this season?

Clay Buchholz (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Clay Buchholz (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Drew: Buchholz has struggled with his mechanics all season which seem to
have been affected by the shoulder injury he had last season. He was
rocked for 6 runs in his first start of the season and hasn’t seen the
movement on his pitches that brought him so much success last year.
After his terrible May 26th start at Atlanta in which he walked 8
batters, he was disabled with a hyperextended knee, which allowed him
to rest and try to work on his motion with pitching coach Juan Nieves
and manager John Farrell (a former pitching coach)  He made two starts
in the minors successfully (2.52 ERA) and returned June 25.  He has
posted a 3.92 ERA (7.02 before that) in those starts but has struggled
with consistency, allowing 5 homers in 3 starts (7 in 10 starts before
that) in between stretches of shutout baseball.
CTH: Stephen Drew has yet to get it going offensively. Was that a bad signing?

Drew: Hindsight is 20/20, but in the last week of May when he was signed,
the Red Sox knew they had the draft looming which would allow Drew to
sign with any team without having to give up a draft pick (due to the
qualifying offer they gave him last year after the emergence of Xander
Bogaerts in the playoffs, as well as other promising prospects at
shortstop).  They thought that Drew would add to their defense since
Bogaerts has been shaky at times, as well as add another proven bat to
the order.  Not only has Drew not hit (.128/.185/.233) in 86 AB,
within a week, Bogaerts went into a prolonged slump (9 for his last
96) after he moved from shortstop to third base, but the team is
committed to keeping him in the majors.  Bottom line is yes, it was a
reactionary move for a struggling team that has hindered the offense and
contributed to their recent slump.
CTH: Jon Lester is in the last year of his contract. Do you expect Ben
Cherrington to try to keep him? If so, how much money (and years) do
you think it will take?

Drew: This is something the Red Sox should have gotten done in Spring
Training (but they seemed more concerned with extending David Ortiz)
and now it is costing them both in the cries of Red Sox Nation and in
terms of dollars since Lester is having his best season ever. (9-7,
2.65).  Coming off a tremendous postseason, (4-1, 1.56 ERA, 2-0, 0.59
in the World Series), Lester has tried to maintain a good dialogue
with the press that negotiations are ongoing and he wants to give a
“hometown discount”, but Buster Olney’s stories recently that the Red
Sox have blown it and that he will hit the open market haven’t helped
the process.  Cherington will try his utmost to keep Lester.  He is 30
and at the peak of his career, a postseason money pitcher, and durable
(195 starts in last 6 seasons).  5 years/125 million (maybe front
loaded since they have Lackey at 500 K next season due to a team
option) would get it done, with some reasonable vesting options
(innings and/or starts) for additional seasons should get him signed.
CTH: Can this team get things turned around get back into playoff
contention this season?

Drew: It is unlikely because the team has many question marks.  Can Shane
Victorino return to the lineup?  Can John Lackey return to form (10.29
ERA in last three starts)?  Can Xander Bogaerts return to the .840 OPS
he had before moving to third base? Can Koji Uehara return to form
after a rough patch (two blown saves and a loss, since June 18, 0.57
ERA before that day, 3.75 ERA since)? Can a team win with five rookies
playing key roles?

With so many veterans remaining from last
year, it is hard to count a team out in mid-July, but with all these
obstacles to overcome, it is hard to see them making the playoffs.

 

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