Despite falling behind early and dropping the final game of their three game set at the Royals, the A’s taking two games out of three to win their first road series of the year and fighting back to a .500 record isn’t too shabby. Tonight, Oakland will resume facing their AL West foes as they take on the Astros for three games to kick off a ten game home stand. The A’s next seventeen total games, and every remaining game in the month of April, are all against the western division, so for this team to have a hope and a prayer of competing it is imperative for the A’s to play their best ball for the next few weeks.
Already with an enviable bevy of young, cost controlled, and good-to-elite talent making an impact on the big league team already, this offseason it was just a necessity of bringing some outside talent at the few positional weaknesses they have to complement the existing core of the team. Josh Reddick, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann were all brought in to help on offense, and Charlie Morton and a slew of claims and minor league signings were made to round out the gaps in the pitching staff. The reloaded team entered the season with high expectations after disappointing last year, for even with the AL West looking to be rather competitive from top to bottom, it looked as though the raw talent, now with better support on its flanks, would be enough separate the Astros from the rest.
The Astros starting lineup is filled top-to-bottom with capable hitters, or better, and is a strong mix of battle-hardened veterans and future all-stars alike. It has both contact and power hitters, both strong speed and aggression on the base paths, and both good situational awareness and execution. This team will have no problem scoring runs. But in addition to having an enviable offense, the position players on the Astros, by and large, are strong defenders as well, and rarely make many mistakes on the other side of the ball. This is important, because if the Astros are going to disappoint again, it will likely be because of the shortcomings of the pitching staff. Injuries felled 40% of the starting rotation last year while another 40% of it underperformed dramatically. The bullpen was inconsistent and volatile. It is more than likely, however, that the pitching will improve as a whole this season, if not for the sheer fact that Dallas Keuchel has been great before and can easily become great again, and Lance McCullers has the stuff to match Keuchel in effectiveness. Veteran Charlie Morton reinvented his mechanics, is throwing harder than ever, and is making for an interesting project in the rotation. If Mike Fiers is as bad as he was last year again, the Astros have some interesting options waiting in the wings in the minors to take his place. The gaping holes that existed for the Astros last year have, by and large, been filled, even if there are still some question marks.
The Astros were famously predicted to win the World Series by Sports Illustrated back in 2014, when the Astros were really, really awful. However, unlike teams like the Pirates and Royals, who required decades of losing seasons in order to finally draft one that could compete, the Astros turn around has been lightning quick, as they were an error from phenom Carlos Correa from having a shot at playing for a world series spot in 2015. Like most all of the teams in the AL West to begin the year, Houston is off to an interesting start to the 2017 season. Dallas Keuchel and company have played the Mariners seven times in their first ten games of the season, and have walked all over them. The starting pitching has been highly effective, especially at the top of the rotation, and the offense has done just enough to help the Astros win five of seven games against the Mariners. In the one non-Mariners series the Astros have played, they dropped two out of three games to the Royals at home. The Astros are completing their two-series road trip as they come to Oakland for a three game set.
Here are the matchups and game times against the Astros at the now-tarp-free Rickey Henderson Field:
Fri, 4/14 @ 7:05- Graveman (2-0) vs Keuchel (1-0) on NBCSCA+ and MLB.tv
Sat, 4/15 @ 1:05- Manaea (0-1) vs McCullers (1-0) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv
Sun, 4/16 @ 1:05- Cotton (1-1) vs Morton (0-1) on NBCSCA and MLB.tv
Link to Crawfish Boxes