Chris Carter (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
The Houston Astros will face Oakland A’s ace Jeff Samardzija for the fourth time this season when the two teams begin a three-game series tonight in Oakland.
Samardzija (4-4, 3.57 ERA) is 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA in three starts against the Astros (61-79) this year. For his career, the right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.74 ERA in six starts vs. Houston. In his last start against them, on August 25th, Samardzija pitched eight innings and allowed two runs while striking out 10.
However, Astros slugger Chris Carter has had no problem against Samardzija this season. Heading into tonight, Carter is five for 12 with two home runs, four RBIs, two doubles, and a walk vs. the Oakland ace. Carter was four for 13 with three home runs and six RBIs in the last series against the A’s and went three for four with two homers in a 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night.
Carter is hitting .231/.302/.519 this season with 35 home runs, which is the most by an Astros player since Lance Berkman hit 45 in 2006. Those 35 bombs also put Carter just two behind Nelson Cruz for the MLB lead. For the season, Carter now has 82 RBIs, 101 hits, 19 doubles, 41 walks, and 154 strikeouts in 437 at-bats. However, take a look at his splits before and after the All-Star Break. It’s pretty incredible.
"Before the All-Star Break (273 at-bats): .205/.281/.465 with 19 home runs, 40 RBIs, 12 doubles, 56 hits, 24 walks, and 99 strikeouts.After the All-Star Break (164 at-bats): .274/.339/.610 with 16 home runs, 42 RBIs, seven doubles, 45 hits, 17 walks, and 55 strikeouts.Against Oakland (55 at-bats): .255/.344/.673 with six home runs, 17 RBIs, five doubles, 14 hits, seven walks, and 15 strikeouts."
Another player to watch tonight is Astros closer Chad Qualls because he has really struggled every time he takes the mound against Oakland. The right-hander has given up 11 earned runs in four innings against the A’s this year, while only giving up seven earned runs against every other team in MLB combined. Also, three of Qualls’ four blown saves this season are against Oakland (he has six total appearances against them.) For the year, he is 0-3 with a 24.75 ERA, 14 hits, two walks, and four strikeouts while surrendering a .538 batting average against the A’s.
Chad Qualls (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
In his last appearance against them, Qualls pitched 0.2 innings and surrendered three earned runs, four hits, and one home run in 17 pitches while blowing another save. The Athletics have scored 55 runs in 10 games at Houston this year and 25 of those runs have come in the 9th inning. The 36-year-old Qualls has done a nice job overall this season and is 1-4 with a 3.40 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 17 saves, 40 strikeouts, five walks, five home runs, and only four blown save opportunities in 47.2 total innings pitched.
Houston will send Brett Oberholtzer to the mound to start against the A’s (79-60). Obie is 4-10 with a 4.39 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 142 hits, 81 strikeouts, and 24 walks in 20 starts (121 innings pitched.) However, the left-hander has posted a 7.71 ERA in his last three starts and gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings his last time out (a 13-6 loss to the Rangers.)
Oakland leads the season series against Houston, 10-6, and all-time series, 30-11, which is the best record by a MLB club against a single opponent (in a minimum of 25 games). The A’s are currently the AL wild card leader, but trail the Angels, who the Astros just swept in a two-game set, by five games in the AL West.