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Series #4: Athletics at Astros - Long Road Ahead

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MLB: Houston Astros at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The A’s are entering their first official road trip on a high note, winning three of four games against the World Series champion Red Sox, who have stumbled out of the gate to open their 2019 season. Oakland will now travel to Houston to take on the Astros, who were the second best team in the American League last year and the AL West champions by a wide margin. Fortunately for the A’s, however, like Boston, Houston has also stumbled out of the gate and are currently sitting on a mere 2-5 record, and the team is currently fourth place in the division. Despite the tough schedule to open the season, the A’s have had a good bit of fortune by facing the most difficult teams before they are able to hit their stride.

While the Red Sox were struggling primarily due to their starting pitching, the Astros have been struggling largely because of their offense. Through their first seven games, the Astros are dead last in scoring in the American League, with only 15 total runs pushed across the plate, and have only scored more runs than the Reds in all of the MLB. A large culprit of the lack of offense has been the lack of power generated by key players. George Springer has hit two home runs to go with a .926 OPS, but that accounts for half of the home runs hit by the entire team. Jake Marisnick and Carlos Correa have played well in limited playing time, but the rest of the offense has been silent. Some fans of the Astros have been getting nervous about the lack of scoring to start the year, with old friend Josh Reddick taking to Twitter to try and assuage some of those fears.

Unlike the offense, the pitching for Houston has been very good, just as expected. The Astros’ collective WHIP of 0.90 is second best in all of baseball, just behind the Rays, and their team ERA of 2.95 is just about the same as Oakland’s team ERA. Gerrit Cole has been the top performer for the Astros’ pitching staff, notching 19 strikeouts in 12 innings in two starts this year, but the Astros have lost both of his starts due to both poor defense and the aforementioned poor offense. Fortunately, the A’s will not have to have face Cole in this series. The bullpen for Houston has been very strong as well, so the A’s won’t have the late-inning advantage that they usually have.

Just like with Boston, even though Houston is entering this series cold doesn’t mean that they should be taken lightly. When firing on all cylinders, the Astros may be the most complete, flawless team in all of baseball. The Astros overwhelmed the A’s in head to head matchups in the first half of last season, and that early season dominance is part of the reason they ended up running away with the division. This series will be Houston’s first at home, and playing in front of their own fans could give the offense the jolt that it needs to get started. As much as the small ballpark will absolutely help the A’s right-hand heavy lineup, it can also help the Astros when going up against the A’s fly ball heavy pitching staff.

This is going to be a tough series for the A’s. With the A’s starting pitching still going surprisingly strong and the short porch in right field, there is hope that the A’s can make the Astros’ sweat and win a game or two. However, this will be Oakland’s biggest test so far in this young season.

It is understandable to get antsy when your team starts off the year 2-5 in a division where three teams have their sights set on the postseason, but this Astros team is largely the same as the one that performed so well last year, and it would be foolish to assume that a team this strong would just fall apart during the offseason. Like with the series against Boston, the A’s just need to hope that the team stays cold for a little while longer.

Potential Lineup

George Springer - CF

Jose Altuve - 2B

Alex Bregman - 3B

Michael Brantley - LF

Carlos Correa - SS

Yuli Gurriel - 1B

Josh Reddick - RF

Robinson Chirinos - C

Tony Kemp - DH

Pitching Matchups

Frankie Montas vs Collin McHugh

Aaron Brooks vs Wade Miley

Mike Fiers vs Brad Peacock

Game Information

Game #11: Friday, April 5th at 5:10

Game #12: Saturday, April 6th at 4:10

Game #13: Sunday, April 7th at 11:10

Friday’s game will be broadcast out of market on MLB Network. All games will be broadcast on NBCSCA.