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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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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