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Houston Astros Series Preview: Will Chris Carter’s Bat Wake Up Against Oakland?

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The Houston Astros welcome in the Oakland Athletics for a three-game series starting tonight, and the A’s have not been very kind to Houston over the past two seasons. The Astros have gone 4-15 and 8-11 against Oakland in that span, so this series could be an early test to see if the times have changed.

One player that we should keep an eye on is Chris Carter, who hit .281 against his former team last season with a .381 on-base percentage. That’s nice, right? It gets better. Carter also tallied seven home runs and 20 rbi, and threw in a stolen base for good measure. This is a team that Carter seems to be ready to perform against, so keep an eye out for his early-season .053 batting average to be on the rise over the next few days.

As we have for the first couple of series, we asked a writer from one of our sister sites some questions about their team, and the upcoming series. I was able to talk with co-editor of Swingin’ A’s, Joseph DeClercq about his A’s, and here is what we discussed.

Billy Beane was a busy man this offseason, turning over seemingly the entire roster. Two questions. First, how does he keep his phone charged, and second, which acquisition do you think will have the biggest impact this season?

If he is anything like me — I’m an avid fantasy baseball player and busy manager — he doesn’t keep his phone charged. Plus I imagine he is on the cutting edge in every facet of his life–but his phone. He strikes me as a desk phone man. The popular answer is probably Ben Zobrist, or perhaps Mark Canha. Personally I’m very optimistic about Ike Davis and what he brings both with his bat and with his defense at first. In Davis’ poor 2014 he bested Oakland first basemen in walk rate and strikeout rate while nearly matching their OPS and wRC+. I’m expecting a big rebound, plus anybody is better than Alberto Callaspo and Daric Barton, right? Right??

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If the A’s are struggling in July, do you see them trading one of their excess starters? Say Scott Kazmir?

I actually believe Kazmir could be dealt at or before the deadline if we’re in first place. He has no future value for this team since his contract will expire at the end of the season, and Beane has acquired several young arms poised to take over. I could see Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, or perhaps Drew Pomeranz getting dealt for a hitter and a few prospects so the team can remain competitive, but continue to be well equipped for the future.

Marcus Semien is taking over for Jed Lowrie at short. How is he better/worse than Lowrie?

Lowrie had a great 2013 at the plate and declined in 2014, but really was the victim of some bad luck. Semien brings much more upside with his bat and will at least play better defense than Lowrie, if not better than average. So I’d say Semien is a better fit for our team, despite being inexperienced. Worst case scenario is that Semien can’t quite hit it well enough for full time at-bats and Zobrist takes over a short with Semien platooning at second.

A couple seasons ago you traded Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi to Houston for Jed Lowrie. Now Lowrie is back with the Astros. Would you consider this a Beane blunder?

We also saw Jason Hammel re-sign with his former team, the Chicago Cubs and nearly saw Jon Lester re-sign with the Boston Red Sox, which would have been heartbreaking. I don’t consider this a Beane blunder because Lowrie was a big part of the past two teams, but wasn’t a big part of the team’s future.

With each team’s ace pitching over the weekend, who will have the biggest start for the Astros and A’s?

I’m very tempted just to say Graveman simply because he was extremely unlucky in his season debut. However, because the Astros are so strikeout-prone Kazmir and Drew Pomeranz make more sense. I’ll go with Pomeranz. Even though he’s a lefty, and Chris Carter has been known to rake against lefties, Pomeranz has the repertoire and presence on the mound that make him capable of dominating every time out.

Thanks Joseph! We’d say good luck, but the A’s record against the Astros deems that none shall be doled out.

The probable pitchers for the series are as follows:

Monday: Scott Kazmir (1-0, 0.00) vs. Scott Feldman (0-1, 1.35)

Tuesday: Kendall Graveman (0-1, 18.90) vs. Asher Wojciechowski (0-1, 9.00)

Wednesday: Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 0.00) vs. Collin McHugh (1-0, 1.50)

The good news is that Oakland’s ace Sonny Gray pitched on Saturday, and will miss this series. The bad news is that Kazmir and Pomeranz combined to give up three hits in their first starts of the season. Feldman pitched well against Oakland at Minute Maid Park last season, giving up four runs in 14 innings over two starts. Those two starts were on July 29th andAugust 25th, when the A’s offense was sputtering and the team was in the midst of an epic collapse, and both were Houston losses. Josh Reddick has three home runs in his career off of Feldman. Look out for him.

Even though Kazmir sailed through the Texas lineup last Wednesday, Houston Astros batters have combined to hit .269 off him in their careers, including Carter’s .417 and Jose Altuve‘s .474 averages. Robbie Grossman is 2-for-5 against the southpaw, so look for him to get the start over Colby Rasmus who has yet to get a hit in three at-bats.

Both Graveman and Wojo struggled in their first starts, giving Tuesday’s game the potential to be a shootout, if there is one. Wednesday should be one heck of a pitching matchup, so get your popcorn ready. Ben Zobrist (2-for-5) is the only Oakland player to have success against McHugh, but given the fact that McHugh is relatively new on the scene and that Oakland traded away most of their lineup, this isn’t necessarily comforting.

Predictions: Carter goes deep twice in the series, and at least one of those will be in dramatic fashion. Carter is 1-for-1 against reliever Eric O’Flaherty in his career, and that ball left the park. I also believe that Evan Gattis will get at least one hit in these three games, because, c’mon man. He is 1-for-13 against the pitchers on the Oakland staff, and that one hit came against fill-in closer Tyler Clippard–also a home run. Of the 13 at-bats that he’s totaled, Gray (0-for-3), starter Jesse Hahn (0-for-3) and reliever Ryan Cook (0-for-1) he will not be facing, with Cook in Triple-A Nashville at the moment. Because of his lack of experience in facing these pitchers, he will be in “see ball, hit ball” mode, which could help him out. I could say that he’ll also knock one into the Crawford Boxes, but I feel that predicting a hit is bold enough.

Next: 5 Reasons To Hate The A's

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