Astros: Five key takeaways from shortened sweep of Oakland
Here are our five key takeaways from the Houston Astros sweep of Oakland.
This wasn’t exactly how we would’ve drawn it up, but we’ll take it. A three-game series against the Oakland Athletics at Minute Maid Park was shortened to just a doubleheader of seven-inning games, but the Houston Astros prevailed in both to claim the sweep.
Friday’s game was moved to Saturday due to both teams choosing to postpone the game in light of ongoing social issues. Sunday’s finale was postponed due to a member of the Oakland team testing positive for COVID-19. No makeup date has been announced at this point.
The two teams are set to face off in one final series in Oakland from Sept. 7 through 10. It’s possible one of those days could turn into a doubleheader to accommodate Sunday’s postponement, or it’s possible they could play the game on Sept. 14 when both teams have an off day.
At any rate, the Astros came away with two much-needed wins in this series thanks to some good pitching and a couple of timely hits by Kyle Tucker. These wins were vital for this club as they make a playoff push. Here are our five key takeaways from this series.
We Have a Race
All of a sudden, Oakland’s lead in the AL West doesn’t feel quite so secure. It’s down to just 2.5 games after the Astros took both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, meaning we have ourselves a division race with less than half of the season remaining.
Of course it also could very well mean that Sunday’s postponed game ends up being played in Oakland, which would be to the A’s advantage. Those final five games are going to be some of the most important of the regular season for both teams, as winning the division would provide a more favorable playoff seed.
Tucker On Fire
Kyle Tucker is flat out raking right now. He hit a three-run homer in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and followed it up with a three-run triple in the second game. He’s now hitting .272/.333/.588 with a team-leading 29 RBIs and a league-leading six triples.
Tucker hit fifth in the lineup in both of Saturday’s games, sandwiched between Yuli Gurriel and Carlos Correa. This seems to be a good spot for him and may be where he hits for a while, which should give him plenty of RBI opportunities.
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After enduring another slump at the plate and a bruised elbow thanks to being hit with a pitch, George Springer looks to be back to his old ways. He doubled in the first of Saturday’s games and followed that up with two hits in the finale, including a towering two-run homer.
That performance brought his season batting average back above the Mendoza Line, which is a welcome sight. Both Springer and Jose Altuve had multi-hit games in the finale, and the Astros will need both of them to produce at the plate if they’re going to keep pace with Oakland.
Pressly’s Two Saves
Prior to Saturday, no Astros pitcher had earned a save in both ends of a doubleheader since Todd Jones in 1995, but Ryan Pressly did just that. He’s only the third player to do that in franchise history. Not only that, but he didn’t allow a baserunner while striking out four of the six batters he faced.
The two outings dropped his ERA down to 4.22, which isn’t great but is a vast improvement over where it was early in the season. With any luck, he looks like he may finally have rounded into form and has become the lockdown closer the Astros needed once Roberto Osuna went down.
Maldonado Catches Both
What might be even more impressive than Pressly’s double outing is Martin Maldonado catching both ends of the doubleheader. He’s the first Astros catcher to do that since the great Tony Eusebio in 1995.
Oh, and he was also 2-for-4 with two walks at the plate. He’s hitting an impressive .260/.394/.403 in 27 games this season to go along with his excellent defense and game calling. He’s proving to be an incredible bargain thus far.