Chris Carter (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Two of the biggest surprises for the Houston Astros (and MLB) this season have been Brett Oberholtzer and Chris Carter. Both players are having career years in Houston and hoping to finish the season on a positive note. However, recently, Obie hasn’t pitched as well (he is just 1-4 in his last seven starts) and Carter is on a bit of a home run slump (only three in his last 17 games).
Carter’s last home run was on September 5th against his old team, the Oakland A’s. Coincidentally, that is also Oberholtzer’s only win in his last seven starts (since August 2nd). After digging a little deeper, it appears Carter has homered in Obie’s last three victories: July 28th vs. Oakland, August 2nd vs. Toronto, and September 5th at Oakland. They were home runs No. 21, 22, and 36 for the Astros slugger.
Brett Oberholtzer (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Even stranger: the Astros have won in both of Obie’s two most recent no-decisions (Aug. 8th vs. Texas and Aug. 19th at the Yankees) when Carter hit a home run in both those games as well (No. 25 and No. 30). That means the Astros have won five games in a row when Oberholtzer is on the mound AND Carter hits a home run. That’s an interesting combination.
Tonight, Oberholtzer will get the start for the Astros as he takes on Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 2.86 ERA) and the Cleveland Indians (77-73). After starting the season 0-6, Obie has bounced back to have a nice year for the Astros. The 25-year-old left-hander is 5-11 on the year with a 4.51 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He has collected 88 strikeouts and surrendered 26 walks and 154 hits in 131.2 innings pitched (22 starts).
However, after pitching at least six innings in every start from May 6th to August 13th (that’s 11 starts in a row), Oberholtzer is 1-3 with a 7.00 ERA over his last five starts and his pitched fewer than five full innings in two of his last three:
"Aug. 19th (at NYY): No Decision– 5.1 innings, 7 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, and 7 strikeouts on 94 pitches.Aug. 24th (at CLE): Loss– 6.2 innings, 10 hits, 3 runs, 0 walks, and 6 strikeouts on 103 pitches.Aug. 29th (vs. TEX): Loss– 4.1 innings, 9 hits, 7 runs, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts on 76 pitches.Sep. 5th (at OAK): Win– 6.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, and 1 strikeout on 102 pitches.Sep. 12th (at LAA): Loss– 4.1 innings, 5 hits, 6 runs (4 earned), 0 walks, and 6 strikeouts on 75 pitches."
Meanwhile, Carter is having one of the best home run seasons in Astros history. Heading into tonight’s game, he is hitting .237 with a .315 on-base percentage and .512 slugging percentage (.826 OPS). The 27-year-old has 36 home runs, 85 RBIs, 50 walks, 112 hits, 20 doubles, one triple, and 167 strikeouts in 135 games (473 at-bats). However, he has struggled against the Indians this season with a .077 batting average in 13 at-bats vs. Cleveland (one hit, 4 walks, and six strikeouts).
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On Monday, Carter snapped a streak of 19 straight games with a walk or hit, but bounced back last night going 1 for 3 with a walk. Although the power hasn’t been there recently, Carter is still doing a terrific job at the plate in his last few games. He is hitting .333 in September with a .444 on-base percentage and .556 slugging percentage (1.000 OPS). Although he only has three home runs this month, Carter has cut down the number of strikeouts, increased the number of walks, and even stolen a few bases.
I think Carter, who is still three HRs behind Nelson Cruz for the AL lead, will hit a home run tonight. He has hit 20 at Minute Maid Park this season and 26 off right-handed pitching. It would also be nice to see Obie pick up his first win at home since August 2nd, but the left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.07 ERA against the Indians in his career. The Astros (67-84) will be looking to win for the third time in their last four games.