Astros Series Preview: Can the Team Turn the Oakland A’s From the Foes to the Woes?

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 21: Carlos Correa
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 21: Carlos Correa /

Here come the Athletics to the city of the champions for a three-game division weekend series against the Astros.

On paper, this series seems like an easy three-game sweep for the Astros, no?

Well, surprise. This is not so. The A’s offense has been among the best in baseball. They have the third-highest OPS in baseball (.792) as well as ranking third overall in team batting average (.267), and are also top five in runs scored and RBI. The A’s have scored one more run than the Astros, who have also hit the ball pretty well recently.

Their overall pitching stats, however, do not show as well as some individual performances have shown. Their pitching staff is below the league average overall in most categories. With a 13-12 record, the A’s are not looking like the team last year, which was ranked 17th in the league in runs scored, 24th in batting average, 20th in OBP, and so on…

Let’s add some more juice to this.

The Astros are facing the A’s three hottest starting pitchers. One of them, in fact, may even be THE hottest pitcher in baseball! In earlier starts, each pitcher has gone at least seven innings. Only the former Astro farmhand, Daniel Mengden, has allowed any runs. One run to be exact, and he cruised through eight lights out innings like it was no issue. And to top all pitching performances off,  Sean Manaea threw a NO-HITTER, against the hottest team in baseball, the Red Sox.

The Red Sox are not just any other team who just happened to be playing good baseball the past twenty games. They are the best team in baseball now. They are in the top five in the league in runs scored, OPS, OBP, and RBI, including leading the league in overall team batting average (.271). It’s not so simple to throw a no-hitter against a stacked team like Boston.

This no-hit game also happens to have a cherry on top, of the cherry on top. The Red Sox are the best team in MLB HISTORY (minimum five games) to be no-hit.

That is pretty spanking special!

It’s not such a simple series when you look at it a little more deeply than the ”World Series Champion” Astros vs. division rival Athletics, whose performance the past few years have been sub-par.

However, the Astros have turned things around too after a than stellar ten-game stretch, leading the league in team ERA (2.43), batting average against (.202), and strikeouts (273). Houston is also second in WHIP and wins. While on the other side of the ball, the Astros also rank among the top ten in most offensive stats. This series should be a quality one when you compare most of each teams stats.

As a side note— little off topic, but it happens to be an interesting thing to point out. Historically, except in the case of a playoff game, weekend series games have higher viewership rankings than a weekday series. I think that it is strange, that although the MLB may have had the schedule set up before the earlier season ended, they still should have scheduled games to create the highest TV ratings and maximize profits per series.

This would have most likely resulted in an Astros-Yankees series over the weekend, opposed to a four-game weekday one. However, this weekend the Yankees will instead play the Angels and then fly to Houston for four-weekday games. Cue the Shohei Ohtani effecdt?The Astros-Yankees per-game viewer ratings overall in the series would top, in this author’s opinion, the Angels-Yankees three-game set. Unfortunately, the schedule has been long decided.

Getting back on topic, let’s look at the Astros-A’s starting pitching match-ups.

Game 1: Dallas Keuchel (1-3, 3.10 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (3-2, 1.23 ERA)

Game 2: Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 4.67 ERA) vs. Danel Mengden (2-2 3.86 ERA)

Game 3: Gerrit Cole (2-1, 1.29 ERA,) vs. Trevor Cahill (1-0, 2.25 ERA)

Not many players in this series have consistently hit well against opposing starting pitching this series. Here are some earlier offensive stats against the starting pitching this weekend:

Game 1

Josh Reddick vs. Manaea – 2-for-3, 1 RBI

Jed Lowrie vs. Keuchel – .293 BA, 3 RBI

Game 2

Carlos Correa vs. Mengden – .559 BA, HR, 5 RBI

Jose Altuve vs. Mengden – .417 BA, HR, 3 RBIs

Khris Davis vs. McCullers – 9 AB, .333 BA, HR

Game 3

Yuli Gurriel, Evan Gattis, Brian McCann vs. Cahill -1 HR a piece

Jonathan Lucroy vs. Cole – 19 AB, .368 BA, 6 RBI

Since the Astros moved to the American League in 2013, they are 47-48 against the Athletics.

Pretty good rivalry, no?

Last year against Oakland, the Astros went 12-7, while averaging 5.6 runs of offense per game.

Next: Astros Ken Giles has appeared to regained A.J. Hinch's trust

After dropping two out of three games to the Angels, the Astros are looking to cruise over their first series of the year against Oakland. Hopefully this series distances themselves a bit in the standings from the rest of their AL West.

**Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs**