Houston Astros Between the Seams: Feldman vs. Carrasco

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The Houston Astros are set to continue their series with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday evening after an off-day following the season opener. Neither team managed much offense on Monday, combining for six hits and two runs–both scored by the Astros–so today we’ll take a look at tonight’s pitching matchup. The Astros have Scott Feldman on the mound, while Cleveland will be sending out newly-extended righty Carlos Carrasco.

First the bad news. The Astros regulars have not mustered very much success against Carrasco in their limited experience, with Jose Altuve (2) and Jake Marisnick (1) accounting for the only career hits off of hard-throwing Carrasco. Those three hits have come in 26 at-bats, for a total team average of .115. On the flip side, Cleveland’s starters from Monday’s game are a combined 12-for-58 (.207) against Feldman, so we could be in for another pitcher’s duel.

Last season nobody had a good time facing the Indians’ starter, who allowed just seven home runs all season and had a batting average against of just .209. The one bright spot here is that his splits indicate that right-handed batters hit him a little better, batting .221 (.196 against LH), and the Houston Astros have plenty of those. Along with Altuve, Evan Gattis, Jed Lowrie, Marisnick, George Springer and Chris Carter are all able to hit from the right side, along with all of the bench players being switch-hitters if the lineup is looking for a change. Marwin Gonzalez (1-for-3) and Hank Conger (1-for-2) also have mustered hits against Wednesday’s starter.

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As we mentioned in our series preview, Carrasco is a predominantly ground-ball pitcher, with nearly a 2:1 ground ball to fly ball ratio (1.91) in 2014. Sadly, you may not need a glove while sitting in the Crawford Boxes on Wednesday night.

What should we be on the lookout for from Carrasco? According to FanGraphs, here is his pitch selection from last season with the mph in parentheses.

He has a good mix of pitches and utilizes them all well, as evidenced by his 2.55 ERA over 134 innings last season. One key to his success from a year ago was that he only allowed a home run roughly once every 18 innings. With the Houston Astros being built around their long ball potential, this will be an interesting duel to keep an eye on.

Keys to the Game: Work the count and get Carrasco out of there. With this being his first start of the season, his pitch count may be slightly below the 94.4 that he averaged per start last season. The Astros also must maximize their opportunities. If Springer or Altuve get on, they need to put pressure on the pitcher to scratch out a run or two, much like they did against Corey Kluber in the opener.

Fun Facts: Carrasco has never allowed a home run at Minute Maid Park, and has given up the ten of his thirty-eighty career homers to the two-hole hitter. Springer could continue one trend while bucking another Wednesday. The last home run that Scott Feldman gave up to a Cleveland batter was in 2011 off the bat of Shelley Duncan when Feldman was a member of the Texas Rangers.

Next: Astros Five Key Players For 2015

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