Series Preview: Astros at Athletics



The Houston Astros are fresh off of losing two of three to the LA Angels, and are now headed to Oakland to face the first place Oakland Athletics. Oakland swept the Astros in Houston earlier this month, but that was while the Astros were still striking out 94 times a game. The Astros have since cut down on those strikeout numbers while playing some competitive games. In fact, Houston played a nearly perfect game on Friday against the Angels in a 5-0 shutout. It looked like the Astros would win their fourth straight game on Saturday night before the bullpen took over and blew the win for Lucas Harrell. Sunday the offense could not get that timely hit to back Philip Humber‘s great outing, and then the bullpen faltered again in the eighth in a 4-1 loss. This will be Houston’s first trip to Oakland since 2002.

The Athletics are coming off of their first series loss of the season, with the Detroit Tigers taking two of three from them. The A’s were actually blown out of their last two games by scores of 7-3 and 10-1 while recording just ten hits during that time. Their starting pitching didn’t help matters in the last two games, even though they had their two best pitchers (Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker) going for them. The Athletics hope to stop the losing streak at two, and they have to think they have an advantage going up against the Astros’ back of the rotation.

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Game 1: April 15th at 9:05 CT
Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Tommy Milone (2-0, 4.50 ERA)

Tommy Milone had a strong 2012 campaign, going 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA while coming close to that 200 inning plateau. Milone has been a much better pitcher at O.Co Coliseum than away, and that trend has continued so far this season. Monday he will be making his third start of the season and his second at home. During his first home start, against the Seattle Mariners, he allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings pitched. Milone is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher that depends heavily on his command as his fastball sits around 87 miles per hour.

Erik Bedard has been exceptional during his first two appearances of the season, throwing 7.1 innings of shutout baseball. In his start in Seattle, Bedard’s offense jumped out to an early, huge lead and he did exactly what you are supposed to do with a big lead; pound the strike zone and limit the free passes. Unfortunately, Bo Porter decided to pull Bedard after four innings of one hit baseball, despite only having thrown 66 pitches. My guess is that Doug Brocail and Porter had Bedard on a strict pitch count due to several factors: it was hit first start of the season, he hadn’t seen game action in eight days and he has a long history of injury. Since he didn’t go the minimum of five innings required for a starting pitcher to get a win, he received a no decision. Bedard has dominated the A’s throughout his career and is 4-0 in his last five starts versus Oakland.

Game 2: April 16th at 9:05 CT
Brad Peacock (1-1, 4.82 ERA) vs A.J. Griffin (2-0, 1.93 ERA)

A.J. Griffin made his Major League debut in 2012 and made 15 starts for the Athletics, going 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. Through his first two starts, Griffin has been the Athletics’ best starting pitcher. After a strong start against the the Mariners, Griffin took his show on the road to Anaheim and allowed just one Angel run over eight innings pitched. Griffin relies on a good mixture of his 90 mph fastball, slider, a 12-6 curve and changeup. He likes to work ahead in the count, so often he will resort to a first-pitch fastball. When he does get ahead, he mixes in a heavy dose of his breaking pitches. This may be a time that the Astros need to be aggressive early in the count.

This will be Brad Peacock’s second start against his former team. On April 5th, Peacock allowed two runs over 4.1 innings and got the loss. He did earn a win in his last start against the Mariners, despite allowing 2 home runs in only five innings before being pulled. While Peacock has been effective in both of his starts thus far, he has not been very efficient. I’m hoping he can follow in the footsteps of Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Philip Humber and give the Astros six or seven strong innings on Tuesday.

Game 3: April 17th at 2:35 CT
Bud Norris (2-1, 1.96 ERA) vs Bartolo Colon (1-0, 4.15 ERA)

Bartolo Colon is coming off of a strong start against the Detroit Tigers where he went 7 innings and allowed three earned runs, which all came on a Prince Fielder home run. The aging, obese pitcher recorded his one win this season against the Astros on April 6th when he threw six innings, allowing three runs while striking out just two. Colon throws a fastball, slider and changeup, and at this point in his career (with the help of some banned substances) they are all average pitches.

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Bud Norris has turned into a stud. Friday night against the Angels, he was as dominant as I have ever seen him. Norris threw seven innings of shutout baseball, while allowing just three hits and striking out five. Norris has looked like a completely different player this season, and has really settled into being this team’s #1 pitcher. This could be partially due to the increased usage of his changeup. Through his first three starts of the season, Norris has thrown his changeup on 13.3% of his pitches compared to his 9.8% career average. Using that third pitch makes a huge difference when you are going through a lineup for the third and fourth times. I have a good feeling about this pitching matchup!

Worth Noting:

  • The Astros starting rotation has certainly been surprising thus far. Through eleven games, Astros’ starters have thrown 59.1 innings, allowing 51 hits and have a 3.49 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.
  • Athletics’ left fielder Yoenis Cespedes was placed on the Disabled List Saturday with a sprained muscle in his left hand. Chris Young should see a majority of the playing time in left while Cespedes is out.
  • Through his first six road games with the Astros, Chris Carter is batting .440 with four homers and seven RBI. That’s after batting .091 in his first six games of the season with no home runs and no RBI.