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Series #43: Athletics at Astros - Final Showdown

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Astros’ Current Record:

80-50, first place in the division and 1.5 games ahead of the second place A’s. The Astros have kept pace with the A’s winning ways since the teams last met, and have won five in a row overall. The Astros haven’t played too well in Houston, surprisingly, and are only 33-29 at their home stadium. The A’s are 40-26 on the road.

Projected Lineup:

George Springer - CF

Alex Bregman - 3B

Jose Altuve - 2B

Carlos Correa - SS

Marwin Gonzalez - LF

Tyler White - 1B

Evan Gattis - DH

Josh Reddick - RF

Martin Maldonado - C

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Gerrit Cole - RHP

Charlie Morton - RHP

Dallas Keuchel - LHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

The Angels did their part to get to the Astros bullpen, but its usage was widely spread over the last three days, and only Roberto Osuna has thrown more than ten pitches on multiple days for Houston. With September callups around the corner, it should be all hands on deck.

Hottest Hitter(s):

The Astros offense has scuffled for much of the season’s second half, largely due to injuries. However, entering the season’s final month, all the key offensive players are back in action. No players’ return to the lineup has been more profoundly felt than Jose Altuve’s, as the team has not lost since his return to the lineup, and he is hitting .350/.435/.550 during that timespan. Over the last month, Tyler White has done the most to pick up the slack on offense, and has hit for a 1.063 OPS during his last twenty-plus games.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Also impacted by injuries, Carlos Correa and George Springer have both been zeroes on offense since they got off of the disabled list. Correa in particular is batting just .173/.237/.250 in fourteen games since his return. If these two players are still unable to find their stroke in this upcoming series, Oakland will have the edge on offense.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

For the first time this season, Houston has had to try and cope with an injury in their starting rotation. And the guys who have taken his place in the rotation, Brad Peacock and Framber Valdez, have allowed the rotation to continue on without missing a beat. Dallas Keuchel has re-emerged as the staff ace after being overshadowed by some of the bigger RHP’s in the rotation, and the lefty has a 3.31 ERA over his last five starts, best on the team. The bullpen has continued to be one of the most dependable in the league, and rivals that of the A’s, albeit with less star power.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Justin Verlander has suddenly started giving up home runs like they’ve been going out of style, having surrendered eleven in his last five starts for the Astros. His home run tendencies have been causing his ERA to balloon to an unsightly 5.06 over his last five starts. Colin McHugh has been the one weak link in the bullpen, recently losing control of the strike zone and walking six in his last nine outings.

Key Injuries:

Lance McCullers does not have a set timetable for his return, but for now the Astros have plenty of suitable candidates to keep his spot warm for the remainder of the season, and teams only go with a four man rotation in the postseason anyhow. Brian McCann and Jake Marisnick are still out, but set to return fairly soon.

* * *

This is the final series between the top two teams in the AL West, and the A’s and Astros have proven themselves to be pretty evenly matched this year, the Astros having the edge during the earliest parts of the season and the A’s having the edge more recently. All in all, the A’s are 6-10 against Houston this season, meaning the Astros have the advantage in a potential tiebreaker scenario. One could make the argument that the last time these two teams played, the Astros were injured, beaten up, and not at full strength, however, on the flip side, one could make that same argument for the A’s entire season. The Astros stumbled at the first signs of adversity they faced during this entire, long season. The A’s have turned their adversity into this magical playoff run.

The A’s find themselves in need of a sweep in order to procure first place for themselves by the time this series ends, something the team nearly did the last time they visited Houston. More importantly, perhaps, than taking the division outright this series, is to simply not give away any wins during this series, and to continue to play sharp baseball. The A’s are deep into their run of twenty games in twenty days, something that is difficult for any team to do, and things don’t get much easier with the Mariners and Yankees immediately following this series.

Game #132: Monday, August 27th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, ATT Sportsnet SW,

Brett Anderson vs Gerrit Cole

Not only does Anderson have an ERA of 0.68 in August, but in his last outing, Anderson looked pretty mobile and slick on the mound as well, routinely fielding a pair of tough comebackers. Houston’s lineup is pretty lethal against left handers, and balls fly pretty far in Minute Maid Park, but if Anderson continues to pitch like he has, that won’t be much of a problem because Houston won’t be able to hit the ball in the air anyways. Gerrit Cole has pitched the A’s well all year, but in this game could very well be a close affair and anything the team can scratch across the plate could be the difference.

Game #133: Tuesday, August 28th, 5:10 - NBCSCA, ATT Sportsnet SW,

Edwin Jackson vs Charlie Morton

Jackson stumbled his last time out against the Rangers and couldn’t make it through five innings. With the season about to enter its final month, everyone is under extra scrutiny, and so Jackson will have to prove that his last start was just a blip and not signs of a downward trend. Considering Jackson has been one of the most dependable starters for the A’s since his debut, that shouldn’t be too tall of a task. Morton was rather awful in his last start, and has had stretches in many of his starts where he just suddenly loses the strike zone for an inning or two, something that the A’s have taken advantage of in recent weeks.

Game #134: Wednesday, August 29th, 11:10 - ATT Sportsnet SW, MLB Network

Trevor Cahill vs Dallas Keuchel

Before anyone panics about Cahill pitching on the road, it is worth remembering that he has been the best overall starter on the team since he debuted this season and his road woes are more likely a blip than an actual inability to pitch away from Rickey Henderson Field. Keuchel has been the Astros best starter during their mediocre run through the season’s second half, and has the ability to keep the A’s off balance. Hopefully the big bats can connect on one of the few mistakes Keuchel makes in order to ensure a victory on getaway day.