The Oakland A's welcome the Astros to town on Monday for a three-game series at the Coliseum. The A's got the second half of the 2016 season off to a good start by winning their first two games against the Blue Jays in exciting fashion, but then we got back to our normal programming on Sunday with two pitchers getting injured in the first inning en route to a deflating defeat in the finale.
That Sunday pitching debacle will have an effect on this Houston series, even beyond the extra work the bullpen had to put in (12⅔ innings over the three games). Sean Manaea wound up tossing five innings of emergency long relief, which will preclude him from making his scheduled start on Tuesday. Instead, left-hander Dillon Overton will come up from Triple-A Nashville to pitch in his place. Presumably the official transaction (with someone else being removed from the 25-man roster) won't be made until Tuesday.
Overton struggled in his first MLB trial in June. His debut against the Angels was decent but shaky, as he scattered three solo homers in a winning effort. But his followup against the Giants was abysmal, as he got pounded for eight runs (including two more homers) in just three-plus innings. That left him with an 11.42 ERA and a nearly identical 11.47 FIP. Of course, two bad starts don't end a prospect's career, and Overton settled back down upon his return to Triple-A. He looks ready for his next test, with his high-80s fastball and advanced secondary pitches. Check out our Eyeball Scout report on Overton for more.
Here is the rest of the pitching slate:
Mon: Kendall Graveman vs. Mike Fiers
Tue: Dillon Overton vs. Dallas Keuchel
Wed: Daniel Mengden vs. Doug Fister
Graveman has been a tear lately, as the streaky right-hander is wont to do at times. In his last six starts, he has a 2.65 ERA, a reduced walk rate, an increased groundball rate, and his four longest outings of the season. Keep an eye on his pitch selection, and see if he keeps leaning heavily on his sinker. Mengden has struggled in his last two starts, but there are extenuating circumstances -- he was rolling on July 8 before getting hit in the chest by a line drive and subsequently falling apart (5 of his next 7 batters reached base), and on Friday he had to deal with both some sloppy defense from his teammates and also Mark Wegner's bogus strike zone in what was genuinely one of the worst umpiring performances I've ever seen.
We just saw Keuchel and Fister before the All-Star break, and unfortunately both of them turned in excellent starts against the A's (though Rich Hill out-deuled Fister in that game). Fister has faced the A's three times this year and has allowed just three total runs, in 20⅔ innings. Fiers faced the A's back in April and had a quality performance, so these three hurlers have pitched against the A's five total times this year and have been good each time. Sixth time's a charm! Here are the lineups for the opener:
|HOUSTON ASTROS||OAKLAND A'S|
|George Springer - RF||Coco Crisp - CF|
|Marwin Gonzalez - 1B||Jed Lowrie - 2B|
|Jose Altuve - 2B||Josh Reddick - RF|
|Carlos Correa - SS||Danny Valencia - DH|
|Luis Valbuena - 3B||Khris Davis - LF|
|Colby Rasmus - LF||Stephen Vogt - C|
|Carlos Gomez - CF||Marcus Semien - SS|
|A.J. Reed - DH||Yonder Alonso - 1B|
|Jason Castro - C||Ryon Healy - 3B|
|Mike Fiers - RHP||Kendall Graveman - RHP|
Houston's hottest hitters appear to be Altuve, Correa, and Valbuena, depending on how far back you look. A.J. Reed is a top-50 prospect who debuted in late June; he's only 6-for-38 so far, but has launched his first couple homers.
The Astros have been involved in a couple headlines lately, too. They recently signed Cuban standout Yulieski Gurriel, who they hope will play in the bigs this season but certainly won't be up in time for this series. Also, in an Astros headline that I choose to vaguely report as "CORREA IS GOING TO PRISON" just to freak you out, former Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa was sentenced to prison for nearly four years for the five felony counts springing from his hacking into the Astros database.
First pitch on Monday is at 7:05 p.m., Graveman vs. Fiers. If there's one thing that can help put out a fier, it's shoveling dirt on top of it, and nobody does that better than the grave digger.
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