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Series #30: Athletics at Astros - Getting Back in the Chase

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Astros’ Current Record:

The Astros are 61-31 and have won six straight games. They possess the third best record overall in the majors and lead the Mariners by 3.5 games and lead the A’s by ten games.

Projected Lineup:

George Springer - CF

Alex Bregman - 3B

Jose Altuve - 2B

Yuli Gurriel - 1B

Josh Reddick - RF

Evan Gattis - DH

Kyle Tucker - LF

Max Stassi - C

Marwin Gonzalez - SS

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Gerrit Cole - RHP

Justin Verlander - RHP

Lance McCullers Jr - RHP

Charlie Morton - RHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

Only two relievers were used on Sunday, and no relief pitcher on the staff has thrown more than twenty pitches since Brad Peacock on Friday.

Hottest Hitter(s):

The Astros, as a team, have the third best offense in the American League, wedged between the Yankees and Indians. It makes sense then, that the two best hitters on Houston’s roster, Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve, will each be representing the squad in Washington DC for the All Star Game. Altuve leads all of baseball in total hits, with 122, and Bregman has forty seven extra base hits.

Coldest Hitter(s):

After a few years of being an unexpected success, Marwin Gonzalez has taken several steps back at the plate this year. The utility player has a slash line of .208/.303/.356. Veteran Brian McCann has an OPS of .606 for the year. For the last month, All Star George Springer is hitting just .144/.272/.216.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

By a country mile, the Astros have the best team ERA in baseball, with Astros’ pitchers collectively pitching to a 2.88 ERA, with the second place Yankees possessing a still respectable 3.42 ERA. The reason for the unfettered success of the staff is that the starting rotation could rank amongst the greatest of the entire history of the sport. For the last month, Lance McCullers Jr has been the best of the best in that rotation, carrying a 2.18 ERA over five starts, with a WHIP of 0.91.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

While they have the best numbers overall for the season, for the first time in the entirety of their Astros tenure, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have looked less than superhuman on the hill. Gerrit Cole has given up four runs in three of his last five starts, and Justin Verlander has put up a rather pedestrian 4.18 ERA over his last five starts.

Key Injuries:

The Astros were finally dealt a debilitating injury on this season after enjoying half a year of remarkable good health, as Carlos Correa has been sidelined for several weeks with back issues. He was originally set to return for this series, but his return has been pushed back to an undetermined time.

* * *

The A’s travel to Houston after taking two of three from one of the toughest home teams in the game. The A’s struggles against their fellow AL West rivals has been well documented this season, and their playing down to the division is the reason the team sixth in a race for five playoff spots. With over half of their games against the Astros and Mariners yet to be played, there is still plenty of time to change the narrative and make up some major ground in the division. It just has to start with this series.

Houston is still riding high, coasting their way to a division title as teams below them scrap it out. To make matters even better, the team has won six straight games on the backs of one of the greatest pitching staffs in history and one of the most rounded and potent lineups of any team this season. They are 8-1 against the A’s this season, and will likely be confident in their ability to beat the A’s again. Playing well in this series could make a profound statement for the rest of this long season.

Game #91: Monday, July 9th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, ATT Sportsnet SW, MLB.tv

Frankie Montas vs Gerrit Cole

Two live arms will be taking each other on in the series opener. Montas was rocked in his first start this season against the Astros, but hopefully his experience from that start carries over into success in his second effort. Gerrit Cole has appeared mortal over the last month, and so the A’s lineup has a fighting chance.

Game #92: Tuesday, July 10th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, ATT Sportsnet SW, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Justin Verlander

Tuesday’s game will feature each team’s staff ace, in what has the potential to be a tight, low scoring affair. Manaea made one of the stronger starts versus Houston all year back in April, giving up zero earned runs in seven innings pitched, and will most assuredly seek to repeat, or better, that last performance. Verlander is winless over his last four starts, but always pitches the A’s well.

Game #93: Wednesday, July 11th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, ATT Sportsnet SW, MLB.tv

Chris Bassitt vs Lance McCullers Jr

Bassitt will have a tough test ahead of him, as the A’s offense can’t be expected to put up many crooked numbers on the board against the crafty McCullers. The Astros are undefeated in games that McCullers has started against the A’s.

Game #94: Thursday, July 12th, 11:10 - Sportsnet SW, MLB Network, MLB.tv

TBD vs Charlie Morton

There isn’t an official starter penned in for the series finale on Thursday, as the A’s rotation is a bit in flux with the musical chairs on and off of the disabled list that has been going on. Morton has been one of the steadier forces in Houston’s rotation this year, and always keeps his team in the game.