SERIES PREVIEW

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

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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Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After dropping the middle game to the Rangers to split the first two games, the Astros looked for an improved offensive showing in the finale on Thursday night to take the series. Here is a rundown of the rubber game:

Final Score: Astros 2, Rangers 1.

Record: 25-25, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (4-3, 3.82 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jordan Lyles (1-5, 7.07 ERA).

Valdez another Houston pitcher to thrive against Rangers

Much like Jose Urquidy on Tuesday and Lance McCullers JR. on Wednesday, Framber Valdez put up an excellent pitching line on Thursday against the Rangers. After allowing two singles in the first and a single in the second, he would settle in and hold the Rangers to just one baserunner, which came via a walk through six frames.

He would try to get through the seventh, but after a long at-bat and one-out double, Dusty Baker would stop his night and go to the bullpen. Unfortunately, that double would end up scoring as Josh James would allow an RBI-single, charged to Valdez, before finishing the inning. Along the way, Valdez was able to ring up eleven Rangers. His final line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K, 0 HR, 100 P.

Kyle Tucker gets the big hit of the night

Luckily, Houston was still in the lead after the Rangers' run, thanks to a big hit by Kyle Tucker back in the second inning. After Alex Bregman reached base on a walk to become the first runner for the Astros, Kyle Tucker would break out of his recent slump with a two-run home run, putting Houston ahead 2-0 at the time.

Jordan Lyles was otherwise handling the Astros just like Kyle Gibson the night prior, who threw a complete-game shutout. Other than the Tucker homer, Lyles allowed another hit in the second and one in the third before retiring the next 12 Astros in order before an error in the seventh broke that streak, giving Houston their first baserunner since two outs in the third.

Houston takes the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James returned to the mound to start the eighth, and he would get a 1-2-3 inning against the top of Texas' lineup, including back-to-back strikeouts to end it. After another scoreless inning by Houston at the plate, that would set up a save opportunity in the top of the ninth. The opportunity would go to Brooks Raley, and he would notch the save with a scoreless inning, giving Houston the series and moving them back up to .500 at 25-25.

Up Next: The Astros' final three regular-season games played at Minute Maid Park in 2020 are this weekend in a series against the Diamondbacks. In Friday's 7:10 PM opener, Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.77 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston while Zac Gallen (1-2, 3.15 ERA) will be the starter for Arizona.

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