Houston Astros: Home Opener Series Preview

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Oct 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate after scoring runs against Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers (54) in the fifth inning in game five of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 14, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) and left fielder Alex Gordon (4) celebrate after scoring runs against Houston Astros pitcher Mike Fiers (54) in the fifth inning in game five of the ALDS at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /
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It’s That Time, Astros Fans. The Home Opening Series is Here

The Astros play their first game in Houston this season against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, the Kansas City Royals.  Not only did the Royals eliminate Houston, they went on to be the World Series champions.  It’s interesting how the Astros 2016 schedule generated early matchups with both of their 2015 playoff opponents.  The Astros went 1-2 in both New York and Milwaukee, and now return home to Minute Maid Park on Monday night, to try to win their first series of the season.

In three of four losses this year, starting pitching has been to blame. Collin McHugh‘s 135.00 ERA speaks for itself, after only getting one out against the Yankees. Mike Fiers and Scott Feldman gave up a run per inning with Fiers not taking advantage of ample run support. Dallas Keuchel has delivered to two quality starts to begin the year, but in both he uncharacteristically struggled with his command.

Doug Fister went five innings, giving up three runs and striking out six Brewers hitters to notch his first victory as an Astro. The bullpen has been a bit shaky, with Ken Giles and Josh Fields both having some bad outings, but Luke Gregerson and Will Harris have done well with Gregerson successfully both save opportunities presented to him this year.

The Houston lineup has definitely not been an issue, scoring 28 runs in six games, and they were possibly on the brink of scoring more runs in the first game against Milwaukee if not for a “walk-off” double play call on a Colby Rasmus slide at second to end the game. This ended a 4-run rally in the ninth, which caused manager A.J. Hinch to voice his opinion on the new rule.

"“It was interpreted right, but the rule needs clarification because I think it’s wrong,” Hinch said. “Especially when you’re asking athletes to compete at the highest level as fast as they can in last-minute decisions. It is a joke we lost the game based on that when there wasn’t intent or contact. It was a baseball slide.” – http://www.chron.com/sports/astros/article/A-J-Hinch-seeks-clarification-on-rule-that-led-7238292.php"

Carlos Correa, Preston Tucker, and Tyler White are all hitting above .300, with White hitting an absurd .556, truly shocking the baseball world, and quickly becoming the most sought after player on fantasy league waiver wires.  Both Correa and Rasmus have already delivered multi-home run games.  The offense was held to its lowest output in yesterday’s rubber match versus Milwaukee, posting only two runs on three hits.

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The Kansas City Royals also had an ironic opening day opponent, as they faced off against the New York Mets, whom the defeated in the World Series.  The Royals split the two game series, and then swept the Minnesota Twins at home, and are coming into Houston with a three game winning streak.

The Royals were not given much respect by the oddsmakers to repeat as world champions, and thus far it would appear they are using that to their advantage.  Their pitching staff as a while has gotten off to a good start.  The rotation, led by Edinson Volquez has held opponents to two runs or less in all starts this season, and the bullpen, minus Joakim Soria, have yet to give up a run.

The Royals offense has provided enough runs for the pitching performances to compile a 4-1 record thus far.  No standout stats to show for this group yet, but they form a solid lineup with a mesh of contact, power, and speed.  Their studs are Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Alex Gordon, and Lorenzo Cain.  Cain has the best statistical history against current Houston pitchers with a .333 batting average and two home runs off of Keuchel.  Catcher Salvador Perez also has had success against the Astros, belting two postseason home runs in last year’s ALDS.

This should be an action packed series full of emotion as Houston was very close to eliminating Kansas City last year, but was unsuccessful as the bullpen faltered in game 4, allowing the Royals to close out the series at home in Game 5.  Houston won the regular season series last year 4-2.

Next: Astros vs. Royals: Game 1

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