The Astros had a very successful West Coast road trip.
The Houston Astros came back home to Minute Maid Park in a very good place. After winning six of seven road games against the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners, the Astros still have the best record in all of baseball at 52-25. More importantly, they have increased their lead in the American League West to 12.5 games.
Now, after sweeping them in four games just a week ago, the Astros will face the A’s in a three-game series to begin a six-game homestand that finishes with a weekend series against the New York Yankees. The A’s are in last place in the AL West with a 34-42 record, third worst in the AL behind the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, and are 17.5 games back behind the Astros in first.
However, the A’s will be sending out a pitcher that the Astros have had some trouble with in 2017 to begin the three-game set.
A look at Manaea
The Astros will be very familiar with the first pitcher in the series for the A’s in left-handed starter Sean Manaea. The 25-year-old had been one of the more consistent pitchers in a young rotation, posting a 4.05 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP through 13 starts.
Manaea has been very good against the Astros this season. In two starts this season, he has only given up four earned runs on seven hits in 11 innings of work. Despite not earning a win in either of those starts, he has been very difficult to hit, striking out 14 batters in those two outings.
Using only a three-pitch repertoire, Manaea is primarily a fastball pitcher, throwing his 92.5 mph fastball 55.8 percent of the time. He mixes in a mid-eighties changeup and a low eighties slider the other 44.1 percent of the time.
Manaea’s side-arm slot in which he throws gives opposing hitters a very hard time with picking his pitches up in the batter’s box. This has been a problem, especially for Astros hitters. Of the seven hits that he has given up against Astros hitters, all of them have gone for singles. However, the Astros are facing a pitcher that has walked seven batters in his two starts against them this season.
As the team with the highest on-base percentage in baseball facing Manaea, who averages 3.4 walks per nine innings pitched, the Astros have the ability to wait Manaea out and wait for the bullpen.
Fiers has been on fire
Manaea will have a familiar counterpart when he goes to the mound Tuesday night. Just like on his last start on June 21st, the Astros will send veteran right-hander Mike Fiers to the mound against the A’s.
Fiers has been one of the best starters in baseball in the last month. With four wins in his last five outings, Fiers has a 1.42 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP in the month of June. The major reason for that has been the lack of long balls he has given up. He has not given up a home run in his last five starts.
Known as a fly-ball pitcher, Fiers has done a very good job at keeping the ball on the ground in his last five starts. The ground ball percentage in four of his last five starts is over 60 percent. With that, his batting average on balls in play has not been above .240 in his last three outings.
Fiers showed that in his outing against the A’s on June 21st. He generated ten ground balls compared to only four fly balls and two line drives in his six innings of work. He only gave up one earned run on three hits and three walks while striking out five in the 5-1 Astros win.
Although Fiers has been spectacular as of late, that run will have to keep up, as the Astros will have a tough task tonight hitting against Manaea.
***Stats provided by Baseball Reference and FanGraphs***