Houston Astros Series Preview: The Battle For the Boot Begins
By Jason Burke
While the Houston Astros first series wasn’t what we were all hoping for, there is another series that starts this weekend. That’s the beauty of baseball. There is always a new opportunity on the horizon. This weekend’s opportunity comes against the Texas Rangers, who split a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics this week. Ranger pitching was either boom-or-bust, giving up 18 runs in their two losses, and just two in their two wins. With the Astros’ offense struggling to start the season, the Rangers may be just what they need to jump-start their bats.
Friday’s starter Derek Holland is now arguably the staff ace with Yu Darvish set to miss the 2015 season, but the Astros have had some success against the crafty lefty in the past. The player with the best stats against Holland isn’t Jose Altuve, but rather Jason Castro, who is 4-for-6 (.667) lifetime against the southpaw, with a home run. Chris Carter and Colby Rasmus have also gone deep off of Holland with one each, but their batting averages sit at .235 and .200 respectively, with Carter also accumulating six strikeouts in 17 at-bats.
Robbie Grossman is 3-for-9 lifetime, so there is a chance that we could see him in the lineup again on Friday, giving Jake Marisnick (1-for-3) a second consecutive day off.
To gain some insight into the Texas Rangers early in the season, we asked David Hill from Nolan Writin’ a few questions.
Do you think Delino DeShields will stick with Texas the whole season, or can we have him back?
I think he could be. DeShields does have rare speed, and an athleticism that is needed on the Rangers. While his ceiling seems to be that of a fourth outfielder type, having someone capable of coming in as a defensive replacement or pinch runner could be quite useful this season.
The Rangers also have Carlos Corporan and Wandy Rodriguez (former Astros, ahem) in the mix. Who has a bigger impact this season?
Based on the current state of the Rangers rotation, I would say Wandy Rodriguez. He had a solid Spring Training with the Braves before being released, and seems healthy again for the first time in two years. If he pitches well at AAA, Rodriguez could make his Rangers debut in the relatively near future.
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Ok really, what kind of a season all Prince Fielder have? Even before his injury last season he had started to decline a little. Does that trend continue, or does he Bounce back in 2015?
I think we’ll see a seasons somewhere in between for Fielder. He certainly seems to be on the downside of his career. Realistically, I think that a season with something close to a .270/.370/.450 batting line and just over 20 home runs is likely. It’s not bad, but that would not be exactly great either.
What is the future plan for Jurickson Profar? He’s been injured, and Rougned Odor may prove he’s perfectly capable of holding down the position this season.
I could see Profar settling in to a role similar to Ben Zobrist. Odor appears to have seized the second base spot, and as Profar has played second, short, third and left in his career, he could easily turn into that super utility player who gets over 400 at bats a season while playing 30 games at four different positions. That may actually be the perfect role for Profar going forward.
With J.P. Arencibia gone, which player do you think will get the wrath of Orbit?
If I had to guess, I would say Adrian Beltre. People seem to enjoy having fun with him, particularly Elvis Andrus. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andrus and Orbit team up and target Beltre.
We want to give a big thank you to David and Nolan Writin’ for taking the time to answer some of our questions.
The scheduled pitching match-ups are as follows:
Friday 3:05 CST Collin McHugh vs. Derek Holland
Saturday 7:05 CST Roberto Hernandez vs. Yovani Gallardo (0-1, 9.00)
Sunday 2:05 CST Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 0.00) vs. Colby Lewis (1-0, 1.50)
Both Keuchel and Lewis pitched well in their season debuts, which will make Sunday’s contest a very interesting one. Yet, it’s Friday’s duel of McHugh and Holland that should be the real nail-biter of the series. Holland only accumulated 37 innings in an injury-plagued 2014 season, while McHugh is looking to prove last season was no fluke. Both will be out to prove something, and the opposing batters may be the ones that suffer.
Predictions: I’m going to say that the Houston Astros drop game one, but take the next two. Rangers hitters have had some success against McHugh in the past, with Leonys Martin, Rougned Odor, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Robinson Chirinos batting a cumulative .418 against him. Roberto Hernandez will be looking to stick in the rotation with Brad Peacock and Dan Straily in Triple A and Brett Oberholtzer still on the mend. Roster moves will have to be made, and Hernandez doesn’t want to be on the bus out of town. Plus, Gallardo looked terrible in his first start, going just four innings and giving up four runs on six hits. Keuchel will just have to be himself to lead the Astros to the victory, and their first series win of the year.
As for a long-term prediction, the Silver Boot will be in Houston come season’s end. Count on it.