HOUSTON ASTROS (7-14) VS BOSTON RED SOX (14-7)
FENWAY PARK IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
It’s a shame the Houston Astros can’t play the Seattle Mariners more often. The Astros are coming off of their second series win of the season; both of which came at the hands of the Mariners. Houston used a combination of good pitching and offense from their shortstop duo to win Tuesday and Wednesday’s match ups. Now with Justin Maxwell on the Disabled List, Astros’ fans get the opportunity to watch (or listen to) Robbie Grossman, Houston’s #18 prospect according to MLB.com, lead off and play centerfield. In his Major League debut Wednesday, he went 2-5 with two doubles and a run scored.
The Red Sox are fresh off of a series win against the Oakland Athletics. While their roster looks nothing like their 2012 roster that was expected to compete for a championship, this team seems to have more fight in them. During the offseason the Red Sox added a new manager (John Farrell) as well as Stephen Drew, Jonny Gomes, Koji Uehara, David Ross, Joel Hanrahan, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster and Mike Napoli. While no one would say that the Red Sox won the offseason, these additions along with the emergence of Daniel Nava and the reemergence of Jacoby Ellsbury, have helped them to jump out to the best record in the American League through the first three weeks of the season.
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No one has been more dominant than Clay Buchholz so far this season. Buchholz, while not winning any awards based on his looks, is a perfect 4-0 this season and has gone at least seven innings in all of his starts. His last start against the Kansas City Royals was his worst outing this year, going eight innings while allowing eight hits and two earned runs. I’d take that kind of performance any day of the week. Much of Buchholz’s success may be attributed to the use of his new splitter, which he started throwing more regularly half way through the 2012 season. While his velocity is down by about 1-1/2 mph from his career average, the splitter, along with his very good curveball and changeup, have made Buchholz tough to hit.
Philip Humber had been Mr. Unlucky this season …until his last start when he became Mr. Unbearable. Humber didn’t make it out of the first inning against the Cleveland Indians, going 1/3 of an inning while allowing eight hits and eight earned runs. Humber had been solid prior to that start, going 18-2/3 innings and allowing just six runs. The Astros will need Humber to return to form if they want to have any shot of hanging in this game.
Game 2: Friday, April 26th at 6:10 CT
Erik Bedard (0-1, 6.17 ERA) vs Ryan Dempster (0-2, 3.38 ERA)
Ryan Dempster (or Dumpster as I like to call him) has been pretty solid for the Red Sox so far this season. While he is winless for 2012, he has pitched well enough to give his team a chance to win every outing. With a fastball that averages right around 88 mph, Dempster will rely heavily on his command. He also features a good slider and splitter which have helped to keep hitters off of his fastball. The Astros only have two players with more than ten career at-bats versus Dempster: Rick Ankiel is .133 in 15 ABs with 0 RBI, and Ronny Cedeno is .353 in 17 ABs with 2 RBI.
Erik Bedard has yet to pitch more than four innings in any of his starts thus far. In his last start against the Indians, Bedard went four innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out eight. Many were wondering why he got the hook after his 75 pitch outing, only to find out from Jeff Luhnow via The Houston Chronicle that Bedard is “still going through the finishing touches of spring training.” Erik Bedard missed a majority of Spring Training with a right glute sprain. Now that he’s healthy, he has been a pain in the glute for fans. Bedard sets a snail-pace to his innings by taking his time between pitches and throwing, what seems like, 14 pitches to each batter. I would expect to see the Astros stretch Bedard out a little more from here on out, but one of the long relievers should be ready just in case.
Felix Doubront is coming off of his longest outing of the season, going 6.2 innings in his win over the Athletics. Despite only going longer than five innings in one of his starts, Doubront is racking up the strikeouts at an 11.34 K/9 inning rate. Last season, the 25-year old lefty finished 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in 29 starts.
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I can’t help but get a little excited about every Brad Peacock start — and then he throws a pitch and reality sets in. His longest start of the season was five innings. In his last start he went 4.1 innings and allowed seven runs on three homeruns. Peacock has the potential to be a solid Major League starter, but first he must learn to keep the ball in the yard. He is a flyball pitcher so homers will happen, but six in 18 innings has me a little worried. Peacock will need to turn things around quickly or he may be without his spot in the rotation soon.
Game 4: Sunday, April 28th at 12:35 CT
Bud Norris (3-2, 4.13 ERA) vs TBA
The Red Sox have not officially named their starter for Sunday’s game, but they are expecting John Lackey to return from the DL to make the start. Alfredo Aceves was sent back down to Triple-A, so if Lackey cannot go on Sunday you can expect to see one of their top prospects — Allen Webster.
Bud Norris was definitely not at his best in his last start, but it was good enough to get him another win. Norris went 5 innings allowing eight hits and two walks, but held the Mariners to only one run. That followed a forgettable road start where he couldn’t get out of the first inning, so Tuesday’s start was definitely an improvement. Norris has always pitched much better at Minute Maid Park than he has on the road, so we will see if he is able to kick that trend in his first trip to Fenway (which does have similar dimensions to Minute Maid).
- Robbie Grossman has never hit .300 or better in any of his minor league seasons. He does, however, consistently have a .370+ OPS.
- This will be the Astros first trip to Fenway Park since they were swept there in a three game series during the 2003 season.
- Red Sox pitchers lead the Majors with 207 strikeouts. The Astros hitters lead the Majors with 200 strikeouts.