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Oakland A’s Series Preview #5: Astros visit with no fans in stands

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Division heavyweight showdown, minus some deserved heckling

Oakland Athletics v Houston Astros Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are alone in first place atop the AL West, with a 9-4 record, and they’re riding a six-game winning streak. Now they face their toughest test of 2020 so far, with the defending AL champion Houston Astros coming to town.

Houston Astros

  • 2019 record: 107-55
  • 2020 record: 6-5

The Astros were a juggernaut last season, and they got one win away from their second World Series title in three years. Instead they blew a 3-2 Series lead and settled for just being AL champs. Then, over the offseason, all of their success took a back seat when their 2017 cheating scandal was exposed. For more details on that and their offseason player moves, check out our 2020 season preview.

After getting off light in their punishment for cheating, the Astros now catch another break with a season devoid of fans in the stands. They would have deservedly gotten an earful from every city they visited this year, but now that won’t happen because there’s nobody present to do it, including here at the Coliseum. Maybe Tom Hanks can record some jeers on our behalf?

Houston has a new problem this summer, though, with their pitching staff getting exploded by injuries. They have nine pitchers on the injured list, including defending Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, another expected starter, two more rotation depth options, All-Star closer Roberto Osuna, All-Star setup man Chris Devenski, two more MLB relievers, and another bullpen prospect. Oh, and setup man Joe Smith is on the restricted list while he continues to decide whether to opt out, plus another 40-man pitching prospect just got popped for PEDs.

That’s not just half a pitching staff, that’s half an entire 2020 depth chart. Even for a team as loaded as the Astros, the losses add up. Their lineup is still ridiculous, though.

Projected lineup

  • CF George Springer (R)
  • 2B Jose Altuve (R)
  • 3B Alex Bregman (R)
  • DH Michael Brantley (L)
  • 1B Yuli Gurriel (R)
  • SS Carlos Correa (R)
  • RF Josh Reddick (L)
  • LF Kyle Tucker (L)
  • C Martin Maldonado (R)

Seven stars, a few of them MVP-caliber, followed by a Top 20 national prospect and then a Gold Glove catcher with double-digit homer power. Yikes.

They’re not even at full strength, as they’re still missing DH Yordan Alvarez, the 2019 Rookie of the Year, for undisclosed reasons. Also out, due to injury, is infielder Aledmys Diaz. Their bench features former Athletics backup catcher Dustin Garneau.

Starting pitchers

These are the three expected starters:

  • Fri: Zack Greinke (R) vs. Chris Bassitt (6:10 p.m.)
  • Sat: Framber Valdez (L) vs. Frankie Montas (1:10 p.m.)
  • Sun: Cristian Javier (R) vs. Jesús Luzardo (1:10 p.m.)

The A’s still have to face one ace in Greinke, which didn’t go super awesome for them last year in two tries (13 innings, 1 run, 11 Ks, 3 BB, 6 hits). But Semien did homer off him!

Valdez and Javier may not be familiar names, but they’re both good prospects with strong minor league track records and they’ve both looked good so far this year. Javier in particular posted absurd numbers in the upper-minors last summer. This is what depth looks like, being able to call on the next round of top prospects instead of looking to waivers or the scrap heap for emergency help.

Bench/Bullpen

Here’s the Astros’ full 28-man roster:

Houston Astros 28-man roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Zack Greinke (R)
Lance McCullers (R)
Framber Valdez (L)
Cristian Javier (R)
Brandon Bielak (R)

Relievers

Ryan Pressly (R)
Josh James (R)
Cy Sneed (R)
Blake Taylor (L)
Brandon Bailey (R)
Humberto Castellanos (R)
Enoli Paredes (R)
Nivaldo Rodriguez (R)
Carlos Sanabria (R)
Andre Scrubb (R)
Catchers

Martin Maldonado (R)
Dustin Garneau (R)
Garrett Stubbs (L)

Infielders

Yuli Gurriel (R)
Jose Altuve (R)
Carlos Correa (R)
Alex Bregman (R)
Abraham Toro (S)

Outfielders

Michael Brantley (L)
Josh Reddick (L)
George Springer (R)
Myles Straw (R)
Kyle Tucker (L)

10-day IL: RHP Rogelio Armenteros (elbow), RHP Jose Urquidy (undisclosed), RHP Justin Verlander (forearm), RHP Joe Biagini (shoulder), RHP Chris Devenski (elbow), RHP Roberto Osuna (elbow), RHP Brad Peacock (shoulder), LHP Cionel Perez (undisclosed), DH Yordan Alvarez (undisclosed), IF Aledmys Diaz (groin)

45-day IL: RHP Austin Pruitt (elbow)

Restricted: LHP Kent Emanuel (PEDs), RHP Joe Smith (opt out?)