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Athletics at Astros: Falling Back to Earth

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MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s appeared poised to disrupt a multitude of teams in the thick of the Wild Card chase the last ten days, or so, but the nine game homestand was largely fruitless. Due to the A’s ability to pitch going entirely out the window, the team went 3-6 over the nine games, allowing at least six runs in each loss. The team has now given up more runs than any other MLB team outside of the Reds, and is sporting a collective ERA of 4.76. Normally a strength, the pitching has been a big issue all season for the A’s, and for the team to begin its new era of competitiveness next year and beyond, Billy Beane and company must address the pitching woes up and down the roster and the minors. Waiting and hoping for prospects to right the ship after many have taken noticeable steps backwards this season will not cut it.

  • Houston: 74-47
  • Anaheim: 62-59
  • Seattle: 61-61
  • Texas: 60-60
  • Oakland: 53-68

As the Astros continue to struggle in the second half, most of the rest of the division is catching fire. Early in the season, when the competition was mostly confined to teams playing only their division rivals, Houston dominated and started to run away with the division, with the rest of the west looking to be mired in lost seasons. But as competition expanded to the rest of the league, injuries and lack of depth crippled Houston’s rotation, and the Angels, Mariners, and Rangers all got stronger and inserted themselves into the postseason conversation. The Astros’ absurdly large early season lead in the division is likely to be enough to ensure Houston never worries about falling to second place, but the team no longer strikes fear or dread in the hearts of opposing players and fans.

Not much is going well for the Astros, post All-Star Break. The team is not getting enough production from the outfield, and aging veterans and their abilities are waning as the season churns along. The Astros haven’t been able to make up for Carlos Correa’s missing production, despite Marwin Gonzalez’ best efforts. The team still is hitting well overall though, and what has really hurt Houston has been its starting pitching. Lance McCullers has been injured and the timetable for his return isn’t clear, and Dallas Keuchel has been ineffective since his return from the DL. Brad Peacock’s ERA is starting to soar after his prodigal start to the season, and Mike Fiers is back to being inconsistent.

The Astros were also harshly criticized for standing pat at the trade deadline by fans, analysts, and even their own players. This, doubled with the struggling starting pitching, has the team strongly considering making an August trade for Justin Verlander.

The Matchups

Friday, August 18th at 5:10 - Sean Manaea vs Dallas Keuchel

Saturday, August 19th at 4:10 - Kendall Graveman vs Collin McHugh

Sunday, August 20th at 11:10 - Jharel Cotton vs Brad Peacock

How the A’s Win the Series

Both teams have been bleeding runs lately, and playing in Houston’s ballpark won’t do any favors for Oakland’s pitching staff. However, the short porch in left field gives the A’s legion of powerful right handed hitters to have a field day themselves. The A’s are playing on the road though, obviously, so the offense the team had in Oakland will decide to fly with the team, for once.

This will be a real test for each of the A’s starters, as this Astros’ team plays in a park that surrenders lots of home runs and field a team that hits lots of home runs, and each starter has had real problems with the long ball this season. If things get ugly quick for the starters, at least the A’s have some shiny new toys in the bullpen that they will really get to evaluate.