ASTROS-DODGERS PREVIEW

Validation vs. vindication: Astros-Dodgers series breakdown

Composite image by Brandon Strange.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Tues. July 28: Walker Buehler vs. Framber Valdez

Wed. July 29: Dustin May vs. TBD

STORYLINES

  • The Astros and Dodgers meet up for the first time since the sign-stealing saga gripped the baseball universe. While both teams are trying to get their feet under them still, the fan bases will undoubtedly use the series for bragging rights. Dodgers fans will seek vindication for having a title stolen from them by the "cheatin' 'Stros," while Astros fans will seek validation that a trash can wasn't the World Series MVP in 2017, and that their hometown nine are just really good.
  • Who will the Astros tab to replace Justin Verlander's spot in the rotation? The ace is on the shelf for at least two weeks but probably longer. With one ace from 2019 in New York and another on the IL, the once scary Astros staff is now filled with question marks.
  • Will the Dodgers throw at some Astro hitters for payback? Whether players had scathing things to say publicly or not, all of them know that technological sign-stealing was rampant league-wide. If anyone on the Astros gets hit, it won't be for revenge in my opinion.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

  • Roster sizes will continue to shrink as the season goes on, and there will be some competitive battles for roster spots at the back end. Between Will Harris departing for Washington, Hector Rondon going to Arizona, Joe Smith opting out of the season, Roberto Osuna getting to camp late, and Josh James having to fill in the rotation, the bullpen is unrecognizable from seasons past. Rookies Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor have impressed in the early going, while Bryan Abreu impressed enough last year to make the postseason roster. Look for Astros manager Dusty Baker to test the young guns against the Dodgers and see what they're made of. If the young guns stand up to the test, Chris Devenski and Joe Biagini's days in orange and blue could be numbered.
  • Can Kyle Tucker earn an everyday spot in the lineup? Through four games, the touted prospect has only gotten his name tabbed twice. He'll need to start living up to his prospect billing if he wants to get any type of run once Yordan Alvarez comes back to claim his DH role
  • How much longer until George Springer breaks out of his early season slump? Springer only has one hit through four games, albeit the hit was a no-doubt home run onto the train tracks. Later this week, I'll break down Springer's early season struggles at the plate.

PREDICTION

Through three games, no team in baseball was undefeated. The Dodgers come to Houston with a 2-2 record after splitting with the lowly San Francisco Giants. In an already unpredictable sport, this season is even more unpredictable. The Astros and Dodgers will split, leaving fans no choice but to wait until the teams meet again to settle their sign-stealing beef.

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Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

With the disappointing loss in extra innings late the night before, the Astros returned to RingCentral Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to try and even the series against the A's, who now owned a 3.5 game lead in the AL West over Houston. Here is a quick rundown of the middle game of the series:

Final Score: A's 3, Astros 1.

Record: 6-8, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Frankie Montas (2-1, 1.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (0-2, 2.04 ERA).

Valdez does his job

Framber Valdez ran into stress early on Saturday, facing trouble in the bottom of the first inning. It started with a leadoff solo home run, putting Oakland up 1-0 before they would record an out. He later allowed back-to-back one-out singles to rack up his pitch count in the frame but would limit the damage to the single run.

He was able to re-focus and settle in during the following innings, getting quick, scoreless innings in the next four. In the bottom of the sixth, a leadoff groundball that likely should have been the first out was instead a single that would come back to bite Houston. That runner stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw, then scored on an RBI-groundout, doubling Oakland's lead to 2-0. Valdez would go one more inning, giving Houston precisely what they needed by helping give their exhausted bullpen a break. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR.

Houston's offense unable to get anything going

Unfortunately for Houston, Frankie Montas was even more efficient on the other side. Houston was only able to notch two hits against him over seven innings while Montas only had to throw 86 pitches over that span. Oakland would go to their bullpen in the top of the eighth, with the Astros getting just a single in the inning.

Nivaldo Rodriguez would take over for Valdez in the bottom of the eighth and allowed a solo home run to make it 3-0 before completing the inning. Houston would get a leadoff double by Kyle Tucker to start the top of the ninth, and he would come around to score on an RBI-single by Alex Bregman. That's as close as Houston would get, though, as Oakland would finish off the win to secure the series and extend Houston's losing streak to four games.

Up Next: The final game of this series and Houston's nine-game road trip will be on Sunday at 3:10 PM Central. Jesus Luzardo (0-0, 2.31 ERA) will make a start for the A's while Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA) will look to continue his success in 2020 for the Astros.

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