Houston-Oakland Preview

Astros head to Oakland for a showdown with 1st place A's

Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

PROBABLE STARTERS

Fri. Aug 7: Zack Greinke (0-0, 5.00 ERA) vs. Chris Bassitt (1-0, 0.93)

Sat. Aug 8: Framber Valdez (0-1, 2.53) vs. Frankie Montas (1-1, 2.25)

Sun. Aug 9: Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42) vs. Jesus Luzardo (0-0, 2.31)

STORYLINES

  • Who reigns supreme in the AL West? The Astros have been the clear and dominant power in the AL West for three seasons, with the Athletics being a consistent second fiddle. Well, 20% of the season is gone, and the A's have a 2.5 game lead on Houston. A bad series for Houston will give them quite a hole to dig out of.
  • Is George Springer okay? Springer left the game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday night with a wrist injury. Springer was starting to find himself at the plate, so it would be unfortunate if he misses time due to injury and has to find his timing again.
  • Who is Ryan Pressly? Ryan Pressly has only been used twice, only faced nine hitters, allowed five hits to those nine hitters, walked two others, and only recorded two outs. He was responsible for the loss on Thursday night, failing to record an out in his first save opportunity of the year. With Roberto Osuna on the shelf, the Astros need vintage Pressly, not this Pressly.
  • A new ace in town? Athletics phenom Jesus Luzardo made his starting pitching debut earlier this week, twirling five innings of scoreless baseball against the Texas Rangers. If Luzardo, the first Peruvian-born big leaguer in MLB history, is the pitcher that experts think he is, then Oakland might have the best pitching staff in baseball.

PREDICTIONS

The Athletics represent another formidable opponent for the Astros, as they return to divisional play. All three pitching matchups are even, as Greinke looks to build on his second start versus the reliable Chris Bassitt, Valdez looks to prove he's a long term rotation option versus the electric Frankie Montas, and two up-and-coming arms square off on Sunday. Ultimately, it will be up to which offense can wreak more havoc. Right now, that offense is Oakland. The A's will take two of three.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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