Astros: Previewing road series against San Diego Padres

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 19: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros bats during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 19, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - AUGUST 19: Carlos Correa #1 of the Houston Astros bats during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 19, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) /

Here’s what you need to know for the Houston Astros three-game series at San Diego.

The Houston Astros are riding an eight-game win streak as they breeze into sunny San Diego to take on the Padres for three games. Fresh off a four-game sweep of the Rockies that dropped Colorado from second place to third, the Astros will now take on the new second-place team in the NL West.

The Padres are surging as well, having won four straight due in no small part to the fact that they’ve hit a grand slam in each of the past four games. All four of those wins came against the Texas Rangers, which we have to admit is a little sweet. But the Astros will have to find a way to quiet this San Diego lineup.

They could be in good shape for it, as the Houston starting rotation has been on a roll. Against the slugging Rockies, Brandon Bielak, Zack Greinke and Framber Valdez combined to allow only two earned runs in 21.2 innings. The bullpen had some difficulties in Denver, but a move back toward sea level will hopefully help.

The Astros are currently in second place in the AL West with a 15-10 record and a run differential of plus-29. The Padres, also in second place, are 15-12 with a plus-14 run differential. Houston is 5-7 against teams with a record greater than .500, while San Diego is 9-11.

Tonight’s opener, as well as Saturday’s game, will start at 8:10 p.m. CT. The finale on Sunday will begin at 3:10. All three games will be broadcast on ATT SportsNet SW, with Saturday’s game shown out-of-market on MLB Network, and Sunday’s finale airing nationally on ESPN.

Pitching Matchups

Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound tonight against Garrett Richards. McCullers has a 5.47 ERA for the year but has pitched better in his last two starts. Richards, 32, made a grand total of 31 starts from 2016 to 2019 due to various injuries, but he seems healthy now as he’s put up a 3.45 ERA over five starts.

Saturday’s game will feature Brandon Bielak taking on righthander Zach Davies. Bielak is on a roll, owning a 1.69 ERA for the season after allowing one run in six innings in his last start. Davies has a 3.25 ERA in five starts and is in his first season in San Diego.

Zack Greinke will toe the rubber in Sunday’s finale fresh off a brilliant eight scoreless innings against the Rockies which lowered his ERA to 1.84. The Padres have not officially announced their starter, but the spot would theoretically belong to rookie lefthander Adrian Morejon, who made his season debut a few days ago and tossed three scoreless innings.

Players to Watch

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For the Padres, this one is easy: Fernando Tatis Jr, who is arguably the most exciting player in the game today. The 21-year-old shortstop is leading the majors in homers, RBIs and total bases, hitting .312/.385/.706 on the season. The San Diego lineup features a number of dangerous hitters, but Tatis is their star.

For the Astros, keep an eye on Kyle Tucker. He really broke out in Colorado, smacking three triples and a homer in the two games at Coors Field. Was his success fueled by the altitude, or is it something he can sustain? We’ll see how he handles the more pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park.

Astros Expectations

Can the Astros stretch their winning streak to 11? They’ll certainly give it a shot, though it’s a tall task against this team. Still, Houston should at least expect to come away with a series win, as they’ve been playing well enough to do that.

Injuries will be something to watch in this series. The Astros’ woes are well documented, with Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and Justin Verlander among the notable players missing, though Brantley could return this weekend. The Padres are missing closer Kirby Yates, outfielder Tommy Pham and catcher Francisco Mejia.