Astros Look to Finally Beat the Athletics
By John Burgess
OAKLAND ATHLETICS (25-23) VS HOUSTON ASTROS (14-33)
MINUTE MAID PARK IN HOUSTON, TEXAS
The Houston Astros are in the middle of their best stretch of the season. They are coming off of a series win against the Kansas City Royals, and are 4-3 in their last seven games. The Astros’ starting pitching has been a major contributor to their recent success. The last turn through the rotation, the starters have a 2.31 ERA in 31.2 innings while only walking eight. Sure that was against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Royals, who rank 19th and 22nd in the league in slugging percentage (the Astros are 18th), but the fact that the rotation is finally having success against major league hitters is something to celebrate. The Astros will attempt to get off the schnied against the Athletics, who have won their first six meetings this season and are the only AL West team that the Astros have yet to defeat.
The A’s are about as hot as you can be right now. They have won five of six against the Royals and the Texas Rangers. After winning their series in Arlington, they come into Houston in second place in the AL West and 5.5 games behind the Rangers. The Athletics have dominated the Astros through six games this season, outscoring them 45-19. The A’s have held the Astros to three runs or less in all but one of those games. They currently rank sixth in the American League in runs scored (218) and are tied for the league lead in base-on-balls percentage (10.3%). If the Astros are going to take any games in this series, their pitching will have to continue to limit the walks.
Game 1: Friday, May 24th at 7:10 CT
Tommy Milone (4-5, 3.47 ERA) vs Erik Bedard (0-2, 6.00 ERA)
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Milone had dropped five straight decisions before finally kicking that trend against the Royals in his last start. During his five-game losing streak he posted a 3.76 ERA. The last time that Milone faced the Astros was on Tax Day (April 15th), and he threw 6.2 innings while allowing eight hits and just two runs. That was the start in which Erik Bedard was unable to get out of the first inning and allowed six runs, so the Astros were defeated before they came up for their second at-bat.
Since returning to the rotation, Erik Bedard has been much better. He has made two starts, facing the Rangers and Pirates, and has gone 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA. He is coming off his longest start of his season, having lasted six innings in Pittsburgh. In Bedard’s miserably short start the last time he faced the Athletics, he walked four hitters, threw a wild pitch, and allowed a big fly to the Astros’ former Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman.
Game 2: Saturday, May 25th at 6:15 CT
A.J. Griffin (4-3, 3.59 ERA) vs Lucas Harrell (3-5, 4.63 ERA)
In four May starts, A.J. Griffin is 2-1 with a 2.36 ERA. In his last start against the Royals, Griffin received a no decision for his three runs in six inning outing. He has thrown less than six innings in only one outing so far. The last time he faced the Astros, on April 16th, Griffin allowed just four hits and two runs in six innings while striking out eight.
In Lucas Harrell’s last start he allowed just one run in seven innings and recorded a loss to the Pirates. Harrell has been roughed up in three of his ten starts; one of which came at the hands of the Athletics on April 7th. His fastball has so much run on it that he can go from the dominating ground ball wizard in one game, to the batting practice pitcher the next game. Last time Harrell faced the A’s his command was not there and he would end up either starting his fastball off the plate and it would run back to the heart, or he would start it on the corners and it would run off the plate. That’s not the key to success against a disciplined team like Oakland.
Game 3: Sunday, May 26th at 1:10 CT
Bartolo Colon (4-2, 4.31 ERA) vs Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 4.93 ERA)
There is something about Bartolo Colon that just gets under my skin. I don’t know if it’s his getting busted for cheating last year, the fact that he is identical to my high school lunch lady that always seemed to hate life, or that the Astros just can’t hit him very well. The month of May did not start off well for Colon, but he was able to rebound against the Rangers in his last outing, going seven innings, allowing six hits and two runs. In his last start against the Astros he threw six strong innings, allowing four hits and just one run.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Astros have won two of Dallas Keuchel’s first three starts this season. While he has not been dominant in any way, Keuchel has done what he has been asked to do since being moved into the rotation. He has given the Astros more than five innings in each start while holding his opponents to four runs or less. That should be enough to keep your team in it (unless you have a bullpen that resembles the Astros’). Keuchel has two appearances against Oakland this year, both of which came out of the pen. In six innings, he allowed just one run on six hits. Let’s hope he can get similar results as a starter.
- The Astros are currently on pace to have a -307 run differential. That would be the largest negative differential since the 1996 Tigers’ -320.
- While many of Chris Carter‘s numbers have improved, his strikeout numbers have not. He has K’ed 70 times in just 47 games.
- In five games against the Astros, Coco Crisp is hitting .450 with five doubles, three homers and six RBI.