Astros Series Preview: Time to compete in the (Oakland) Coliseum

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HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 28: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros scores in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick #22 asBruce Maxwell #13 of the Oakland Athletics awaits the throw at Minute Maid Park on April 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 28: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros scores in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick #22 asBruce Maxwell #13 of the Oakland Athletics awaits the throw at Minute Maid Park on April 28, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Following a rather disappointing series in Arizona, the Astros take their road trip into Oakland to square off against the Athletics.

The Astros are 21-15. The A’s are 18-16. Based on the win-loss record alone, there isn’t much separation between the two division rivals.

In terms of run differential, though, the Astros are currently the second-best team in baseball at +63 runs. The A’s are currently 15th at +3 runs. So, it is easy to spot where there could be a larger gap between the two teams than the win-loss record could indicate. That said, run differential on the whole looks good for Houston.

At the same time, the Astros offense hasn’t been clicking in the manner we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from this lineup. The runs either come in bunches or not at all. This inconsistency from game-to-game should be a lingering concern if not solved relatively soon.

This series with Oakland isn’t crucial, but it would be a relief to see the team come away with a series win.

Game 1: LHP Dallas Keuchel (1-5, 3.98 ERA) vs. LHP Brett Anderson (0-0, 2.84 ERA)

Game 2: RHP Lance McCullers (4-1, 3.73 ERA) vs. LHP Sean Manaea (4-3, 1.63 ERA)

Game 3: RHP Gerrit Cole (3-1, 1.42 ERA) vs. RHP Daniel Mengden (2-3, 4.30 ERA)

Keuchel looks to rebound from his last start against the A’s on April 27th when he surrendered three home runs and six total runs. McCullers continues to produce quality results following his rough start in Minnesota a few weeks ago. And Cole has been something else since making his Astros debut this season.

Houston’s bats have produced a 102 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers. Against right-handed pitchers, the Astros have produced a 103 wRC+. So, the team as a whole has performed relatively the same against all pitchers. That said, Manaea held Houston to just one unearned run over seven innings while striking out seven. The Astros may have their hands full with Manaea once again.

Oakland currently ranks as the sixth-best offense in terms of wRC+ at 107. In fact, the only AL West team with a wRC+ lower than the Astros are the Rangers 86. The Angels, Mariners, and A’s all reside in the top six team entering Monday while the Astros are eighth. The A’s pitching staff, though, ranks near the middle of the pack in ERA (4.12) and FIP (4.03). If anything, the pitching staff is Oakland’s achilles heel.

Next: Astros Minor League Recap April 30 - May 6: Fresno hits rough patch

Anyway, the A’s are not pushover of the AL West compared to the last few seasons. If the lineup can remain consistent and the pitching staff improves as the season goes along, this Oakland team could be a viable threat in the AL West. But the Astros are quite talented in their own right, so this series should be a fun one to watch.

**Statistics and information courtesy of FanGraphs**

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