The last time the Astros saw the A’s back in early April…..er……August they were coming off of road series against the Dodgers and D’Backs that had dropped them from 1/2 game up in the division to 2-1/2 games back of Oakland.
Three games later after having various pieces of clothing including their jocks handed to them, they left Oakland 5-1/2 games back of the A’s. Since that time they have gotten as close as 2-1/2 games back after an 8 game winning streak, but have now settled back to 4-1/2 games behind the A’s as they start a three-game series tonight with Oakland at the Juice Box.
We’ve written about the 2020 Astros until our fingers have fallen off – so today here is a quick synopsis of their opponent…..
- The A’s at 22-10 are the best club by far in the American League and only a game and a half behind the Dodgers for the best record in the majors.
- Despite having the third-worst BA (.223) in the AL, the most K’s (322) and a league average .733 OPS, the A’s score a fifth-best 4.97 runs per game, a bit behind the Astros (5.35 r/gm).
- While Matt Chapman (9 HRs / 22 RBIs) and Matt Olson (10 HRs / 22 RBIs) supply a chunk of the power, they are getting a lot of help from Stephen Piscotty (26 RBIs), former Astros Robbie Grossman!!(.977 OPS) and Mark Canha (.849 OPS).
- While above average in hitting, it is the A’s pitching that is carrying the bigger portion of the load in 2020. They are 2nd in ERA (3.35) in the AL and third in runs allowed per game (3.69). They give up the least homers in the AL (1 per 9 innings) and give up the second least walks (3.0 per 9 IP) compared to 1.2 and 4.3 for the Astros.
- After Oakland voted to not play last night, their starters for the Astros series are not all announced. Their best starter Chris Bassitt (2-1, 2.97 ERA) is announced for the opener and their second-best starter Jesus Luzardo (2-1, 3.74 ERA)is likely going to pitch on Sunday. If things fall to the norm, Saturday the Astros will see Frankie Montes, who has struggled a bit (2-2, 5.22 ERA).
- Their relievers, as the Astros could vouch for from the series in Oakland, have been brilliant. They have seven pitchers who have pitched 12 innings or more with ERAs under 2.25. They are led by closer Liam Hendriks (2-0, 10 saves, 1.10 ERA in 16 games), Jake Diekman (0.00 ERA in 12 games) and T.J. McFarland (2-0, 0.71 ERA in 14 games).
It does not take a brain surgeon to tell you that the Astros’ best shot is to make some headway against the A’s starter and have their own starters go deep. If it comes down to a duel between bullpens they will be at a disadvantage. This should be a close and entertaining series and for the Astros at least, a very critical one if they have any hope of winning the AL West.