Astros have tough sledding in two-game Dodgers series

The Houston Astros will have their work cut out for them against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After feasting on Seattle pitching for the better part of four games, the Houston Astros will have a much more difficult task on Tuesday and Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a rematch of the 2017 World Series with no shortage of storylines, but we’re just going to focus on the baseball and ignore the noise.

The Dodgers, the widely favored team to win the National League pennant this year, come into the series at 2-2 on the season. They won the first two games of their season-opening home series against the Giants and lost the last two, but don’t let that .500 record fool you. This is a dangerous group.

The first game will take place tonight at Minute Maid Park with a start time of 8:10 p.m. CT and be broadcast on FS1 and AT&T SportsNet SW. Wednesday’s game will start at 6:10 p.m. CT and be broadcast locally on AT&T SportsNet SW and out of market on ESPN.

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Pitching Matchups

Tonight’s game will feature Framber Valdez taking the hill for the Astros against 22-year-old phenom Dustin May. Valdez will be making his first start of the season after posting a 5.86 ERA last year. May started on Opening Day and took a no-decision in an 8-1 win, going just 4.1 innings and allowing one run on seven hits with four strikeouts.

The Dodgers will send ace Walker Buehler to the mound for his season debut on Wednesday. The right-hander, who turns 26 today, went 14-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 30 starts last year, striking out 215 batters. The Astros have yet to name a starting pitcher, though at this point it appears that either Cristian Javier will get the start or manager Dusty Baker will make it a bullpen game.

Players To Watch

For the Astros, it’s Michael Brantley. Uncle Mike has gotten off to a hot start, hitting .467 with a 1.329 OPS and driving in six runs. He’s the first Astro to drive in a run in each of the team’s first four games since Richard Hidalgo in 2004. Also keep an eye on George Springer as he looks to break out of an early funk.

Pay attention to Mookie Betts for the Dodgers. After signing his massive extension, he hit just .150 in the four games against the Giants. This lineup is both deep and powerful, and Betts might only be the second-best hitter they have. But he’s got plenty to prove in his first season in Dodger blue.

Astros Expectations

It’s a quick two-game series, and the key to Houston’s success will be the pitching. The Dodgers lineup is chock full of All-Stars and has legitimate threats up and down the order. The Astros, meanwhile, are without ace Justin Verlander, who was originally scheduled to start Wednesday’s game, and their bullpen is still a work in progress. Relief ace Ryan Pressly is day-to-day with elbow soreness, as is Chris Devenski.

The Dodgers have a much deeper and more experienced bullpen along with a pair of budding aces lined up to pitch. The Astros are going to have to continue to hit the ball extremely well if they want to grab a win or two in this series, as the Dodgers could very well wreak havoc on what is a largely inexperienced Houston pitching staff.

The Astros should probably be happy if they can come away with a split of this two-game set. If they can cobble together enough pitching to keep the Dodgers at bay in one of these games, it could well happen. But this is going to be a good barometer for what we can expect from this team in a season in which expectations have already taken a major body blow.

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