The Houston Astros Finally Win an Extra Inning Game, What’s Next?
How sweet it is. After squandering a zero out, a bases-loaded situation in the first inning, and blowing a save opportunity in the ninth, the Houston Astros wrapped up the home stand in walk-off fashion thanks to a two-run home run by Marwin Gonzalez. The win gave Houston a 6-4 record at Minute Maid Park during the 10-game stretch and a 7-4 record for the month of May. The Astros find themselves in a 3-way tie for last place in the AL West, and trail the division-leading Mariners by 7.5 games, but bottom line, the Astros are playing better baseball.
Some keys to the improved play have been production in the lower part of the lineup and better pitching. Luis Valbuena is hitting .241 in May, up from .183 in April and Jason Castro is batting .296 in May, up from .140 in April. As far as pitching, the Astros were the worst in the AL for team ERA in April at 4.97, this month they have a cumulative ERA of 3.03, and on Friday night will welcome back Lance McCullers back to the show against the Boston Red Sox.
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When the Red Sox came to town a few weeks ago, they took two of three games from Houston. This time, the Astros will look to avenge that series, and improve their 4-11 road record in this four-game set in Boston.
The reigning Cy Young winner Keuchel has been incredibly inconsistent thus far this year. He has delivered some great outings that mimic last year’s performances, and he has also looked like an AAA pitcher trying to make the club. The constant factor in his inconsistency is control. In losses this year, Keuchel has an insanely high 5.31 BB/9 average, in wins, it is down to 3.00, which is still much higher than his last two seasons. His most recent start, which was against Seattle, was one of his best this year.
Although he recorded a loss for his performance, he allowed only two runs on eight hits and one walk through seven innings of work. Keuchel will look to post back-to-back quality starts for the first time this season against the Red Sox, whom he only has one start against in his career. Current Boston hitters are batting a combined .279 against Keuchel.
Price, the Red Sox ace, has also struggled thus far in 2016. Like Keuchel, Price has struggled to find any consistency. Walks have not been an issue; hitters are just simply putting good swings on his pitches. His fastball has averaged about two mph less than last year, and could be a reason why batters are having more success against him, specifically right-handed batters.
Career-wise Price has allowed a .239 batting average against righties, this year, .299. He is having a lot of success against lefties, so look for A.J. Hinch to load up on right-handed batters for this matchup, putting Tyler White at first and Marwin Gonzalez at third. Against Houston, Price is 3-2 with a 2.89 ERA, and current Houston batters are hitting a lowly .164 against him. George Springer and Erik Kratz both have homered off Price in their career.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference***