Astros: Previewing a pivotal series against Oakland A’s
The Houston Astros embark on a pivotal three-game series against Oakland.
Assuming both teams decide to play, the Houston Astros will begin an important three-game series against the division-leading Oakland A’s tonight at Minute Maid Park. There’s plenty going on in the world outside baseball, but this should prove to be an interesting series nonetheless.
The A’s did not play yesterday as they postponed their game against the Rangers, but as of this writing there haven’t been any reports of tonight’s game being in jeopardy. So we’ll assume the games will go ahead until informed otherwise.
Oakland is sitting pretty at 22-10 on the season with a 4.5 game lead over the Astros. The A’s have the best winning percentage in the AL and are tied for the best run differential. Houston has the seventh-best record and run differential in the league. With that dynamic, it’s no wonder that this is a pivotal series for both squads.
These two teams have met before, of course, with the A’s sweeping the Astros in three games in Oakland earlier this month. That series was highlighted by the brawl in which Ramon Laureano charged the Houston dugout after getting hit with a pitch.
Tonight’s series opener will begin at 8:10 p.m. CT, while Saturday’s game will begin at 6:10 and Sunday’s at 1:10. All three games will be broadcast locally on ATT SportsNet SW.
Lance McCullers Jr. will take the mound tonight against Chris Bassitt. McCullers has been hot and cold this year and is 2-2 with a 5.74 ERA overall after giving up four runs in five innings in his last start. Bassitt is 2-1 with a 2.97 ERA and allowed two earned runs in 5.2 innings last time out. He pitched against Houston on Aug. 7 and allowed one run in seven innings.
Saturday will feature Zack Greinke taking on Frankie Montas. In six starts this season, Greinke is 1-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 0.906 WHIP after giving up three runs in six innings in his last outing. He threw six scoreless innings against the A’s on Aug. 7. Montas is 2-2 with a 5.22 ERA and has really struggled in his last two starts after tossing seven scoreless frames against the Astros on Aug. 8.
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Sunday’s finale will see a pair of lefthanders face off in Framber Valdez and and Jesus Luzardo. Valdez is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA on the season; he allowed one earned run in seven innings with nine strikeouts against the A’s on Aug. 8. Luzardo is 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA and gave up two runs in 5.2 innings against the Astros on Aug. 9.
Players to Watch
For Oakland, the obvious answer is Laureano considering how the previous series ended. He’s been struggling at the plate as he’s gone 5-for-42 since these two teams last met. Will he be out for revenge this time?
For the Astros, the one to watch is George Springer. He’s back in the lineup after getting hit in the elbow with a pitch on Monday, but he’s been struggling overall this season. If this offense is going to play to its potential, Springer has to be the spark that sets it off.
If the Astros have any real chance at winning the division for a fourth consecutive year, they have to come away with at least two of three in this series. That would pull them a game closer with a little less than half of the season remaining. Anything less than a series win would give Oakland a commanding lead.
All would not be lost if the Astros lose this series, however, as they’d still have a firm grip on second place, which would get them into the postseason. But this is the only time they’ll face the A’s at Minute Maid Park this season, so if they’re going to beat them, the time is now.