SERIES PREVIEW

Astros-A's series breakdown: A lot is at stake late in the season

Brantley Tucker Astros
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Astros are heading North with their tails between their legs, suffering a four game sweep at the hands of the Angels. It was a particularly gut-wrenching series, with the bullpen factoring heavily in each loss. It doesn't seem fortunes will get any easier, as the 'Stros now have to square off in a five game series (yes, you read that right) with the AL West leading Oakland Athletics.

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Mon. Sept. 7 - HOU: Cristian Javier (4-1, 3.35) vs. OAK: Frankie Montas (2-3, 6.06)

Tues. Sept. 8 - HOU: Zack Greinke (3-0, 2.91) vs. OAK: Mike Minor (0-5, 5.94)

Tues. Sept. 8 - HOU: TBD vs. OAK: Chris Bassitt (2-2, 3.72)

Wed. Sept. 9 - HOU: Luis Garcia (0-0, 2.08) vs. OAK: Jesus Luzardo (2-2, 4.23)

Thurs. Sept. 10 - HOU: Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.91) vs. OAK: Sean Manaea (3-2, 5.09)

STORYLINES

  • AL West supremacy: The Astros trail the Athletics by five games in the loss column. A sweep would see the Astros regain the division lead. Getting swept would see the Astros staring down an insurmountable deficit. Obviously, both are unlikely to happen, but a lot is at stake late in the season.
  • Tattered Staff: The Astros young arms have been taxed. The returns of Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, and Jose Urquidy are positive developments for their playoff run, but the three must be treated with kid gloves, especially considering the injury numbers across MLB this season. Those three still working their way back to full speed forced some undesirable arms into undesirable situations this past weekend against the Angels.
  • Trigger happy vs. frozen trigger: The A's made a couple of deadline acquisitions in former AL West foes Tommy La Stella and Mike Minor. La Stella will undoubtedly feature in the lineup, and Mike Minor is slated to toe the rubber in the front half of Tuesday's doubleheader. The Astros, on the other hand, stood pat, when many felt they could've used some bullpen help considering all of the young arms that have been thrust into tough roles. It's an interesting juxtaposition of two teams chasing the same goal.

PREDICTIONS

It's baseball, who knows, but the Astros come out hungry and take four of five, leaving the Bay Area with a 1/2 game lead in the AL West.

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Yordan Alvarez had four hits on Tuesday night. Composite Getty Image.

Salvador Perez hit a game-ending single in the 10th inning, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Houston Astros 4-3 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

Garrett Hampson began the Kansas City 10th on second as the automatic runner, replacing Vinnie Pasquantino. Hampson raced home when Perez led off the inning with a single to center against Wander Suero (0-1).

“We’re gonna play hard,” Perez said. “We’re gonna do our best, especially right now. We've got new comfort.”

James McArthur (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

Perez and Nelson Velázquez each had two hits for the Royals. Bobby Witt Jr. and Maikel Garcia each drove in a run.

Nick Anderson, Chris Stratton, John Schreiber and McArthur combined for five scoreless innings of four-hit ball in relief of Royals starter Cole Ragans.

“These guys are incredible,” Ragans said of the bullpen. “They pitched incredible. They kept us right there. That’s really, really big.”

Witt's biggest contribution may have been a diving stop on a two-out single by Jeremy Peña in the top of the 10th. Had the ball gotten past the young shortstop, the Astros likely would have taken the lead.

“I thought it did have a chance of going through,” Peña said. “I’ll shout out to Bobby Witt. (He) made a nice play.”

Yordan Alvarez had four hits and two RBIs for Houston, which had won two in a row. Peña had two hits and scored a run.

The Astros loaded the bases with three straight singles to start the first inning, but Ragans limited the damage to a run-scoring fielder’s choice for Yainer Diaz.

“I don’t think (Ragans) had his best stuff,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “That’s a good lineup, and they made him work. (But) if we turn that double play in the first or he’s able to get Alvarez out one of those times with two strikes, he’s coming out of there with one or maybe no runs. Credit to him really."

Alvarez singled in Peña with two out in the second, and then doubled home Mauricio Dubón in the fourth.

Ragans surrendered 10 hits in five innings for Kansas City. He struck out five and walked one.

Houston went 5 for 18 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base.

“We had some opportunities to get some guys in (with) less than two outs," Houston manager Joe Espada said. "We just couldn’t capitalize.”

Houston right-hander Cristian Javier was charged with three runs, two earned, and five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Maikel Garcia’s sacrifice fly in the fifth stopped Javier’s scoreless streak at 15 innings to start the season. Witt drove in Hunter Renfroe with a two-out triple, and then scored on an error on third baseman Alex Bregman.

TRANSACTIONS

Astros: Placed LHP Framber Valdez on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation. They selected the contract of Suero from Triple-A Sugar Land to take his place. The Astros also recalled LHP Parker Mushinski from Sugar Land and optioned RHP Blair Henley to the minors. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Astros transferred RHP Oliver Ortega to the 60-day IL.

Royals: Acquired RHP Colin Selby from Pittsburgh for minor league pitcher Connor Oliver. To make room on the 40-man roster for Selby, LHP Josh Taylor was moved to the 60-day IL. The Royals also signed RHP Zach Davies to a minor league deal.

UP NEXT

The Astros and Royals continue their three-game series Wednesday. RHP Spencer Arrighetti will make his major league debut for Houston against Seth Lugo (1-0, 0.71 ERA).

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