Astros: Previewing crucial five-game series in Oakland

Dusty Baker Jr. #12 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of their game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Dusty Baker Jr. #12 of the Houston Astros looks on prior to the start of their game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on August 09, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Here’s what you need to know about the Houston Astros five-game series in Oakland.

It’s not an exaggeration to say the season could hang in the balance this week for the Houston Astros. After getting swept in four games by the lowly Angels, their road trip continues in what has turned into a five-game series against the first-place Oakland A’s.

There’s no need to rehash what happened in Anaheim, but the short version of it is the team’s pitching staff is a mess. That couldn’t come at a worse time, as the Astros now have to play five games in four days against a first-place team on the road.

This was originally to be a four-game series, but a fifth game was added to make up for the postponed game on Aug. 30. The Astros will technically be the home team in that one, which will be the first of a doubleheader on Tuesday. That’s little consolation to this team, though.

Luckily the A’s haven’t been playing that well either, so the Astros are still only 3.5 games behind them. The surging Mariners, however, are now just three games behind Houston. With that being the case, this is probably the most important series of the season for this team.

Tonight’s opener begins at 8:10 p.m. CT. The first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader begins at 5:10 p.m., and remember each of these doubleheader games will only be seven innings. Wednesday’s game begins at 8:10 and Thursday’s finale will begin at 2:40 p.m. All five games will be broadcast locally on ATT SportsNet SW.

Pitching Matchups

Cristian Javier will take the mound tonight against Chris Bassitt. Javier is 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA on the season and is coming off a start in which he allowed just one run in 6.2 innings. Bassitt is 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA on the year and gave up four runs in three innings in his last start, which came in Houston.

For the doubleheader, the Astros will start Zack Greinke in one of the games and have yet to announce their starter for the other. Greinke is 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA on the year and allowed three runs in six innings in his last outing. There’s no obvious candidate to start the other game of the doubleheader, so perhaps it will be a bullpen game. Yikes.

The A’s have announced Frankie Montas and Mike Minor as their starters for the doubleheader, with Montas going in the first game. Montas is 2-3 with a 6.06 ERA this year. His last start came against the Astros, and he allowed five runs in 3.1 innings. Minor is 0-5 with a 5.94 ERA this season and is making his first start for the A’s after coming over in a trade deadline deal with the Rangers. He gave up two runs in one inning of relief on Friday.

Rookie Luis Garcia will make his first major league start for the Astros on Wednesday, and he’ll be opposed by lefthander Jesus Luzardo. Garcia made his big league debut on Friday in relief of Lance McCullers Jr. and gave up one run in 4.1 innings. Luzardo is 2-2 with a 4.23 ERA this year and gave up four runs in 4.2 innings in his last outing.

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For Thursday’s finale, Jose Urquidy will take the mound and be opposed by lefthander Sean Manaea. Urquidy made his season debut on Saturday after a bout with COVID-19 and gave up two runs in 3.2 innings. Manaea is 3-2 with a 5.09 ERA this year and allowed one run in five innings in his last start.

Players to Watch

The A’s team leader in OPS is not Matt Chapman, Matt Olson or Ramon Laureano — it’s former Astro Robbie Grossman. He’s leading the team in doubles and is reaching base at greater than a .400 clip. They don’t necessarily have one hitter who’s setting the world on fire, but this is one guy to watch for certain.

For the Astros, it’s definitely Kyle Tucker. His bat caught fire again in the Angels series as he belted two homers and drove in seven runs in the four-game set. He’s been the team’s most productive hitter over the past few weeks and has made himself look like the future lineup centerpiece the scouts have long believed he would be.

Astros Expectations

At this point, the expectation should just be to live through this series. As long as they’re all still alive when it’s over, then it’ll be a success.

In all seriousness, these are five incredibly important games, and the Astros cannot afford to lose four or five of them. Coming away with three wins would be a fantastic outcome, and we honestly can’t realistically expect anything more than that. It’s make or break time for this club, so we’ll see if they can pull off a minor miracle.