Photo credit: @OddsShark
By Jerry Feitelberg
The Oakland A’s, following the blueprint developed by the Houston Astros, will meet the Astros for the first time this season for three games starting Friday night. The Astros, who were terrible and lost over 100 games for three straight years, are now the defending World Champion Astros who are at top of the baseball world. The Astros did not get to the top by signing expensive free agents. They did a fantastic job of scouting young players and mixing in a few veterans in order to become successful.
The Astros built the club around Jose Altuve. Altuve is 5-foot-6 and plays as if he was 6-foot-6. Altuve is a terrific hitter, and he became the American League’s Most Valuable Player last season. The Astros signed shortstop Carlo Correa, a Puerto Rico native, and he was Rookie of the Year in his first season. Other standouts on the Astros roster are center fielder George Springer, who played baseball at the University of Connecticut, second-year third baseman Alex Bregman, and Cuban refugee Yulieski Gurriel. Marwyn Gonzalez is a super-sub as he can play in the infield as well as the outfield. Derek Fisher plays in left field and former Athletic, Josh Reddick, plays in right. The catching chores are handled by Brian McCann. Evan Gattis, who can also catch, is the designated hitter.
The Astros bolstered their starting rotation when they acquired Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers last season. Verlander was instrumental in Houston win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2017 World Series. Over the winter the Astros made another move as they made a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the services of right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole. The rest of the rotation includes former Cy Young award winner Lance McCullers Jr., and the veteran hurler Charlie Morton. Their long reliever is the former starter, Collin McHugh. Joe Smith, Will Harris, and Brad Peacock are the setup guys, and the Astros will use Ken Giles and Chris Devenski as their closers.
The A’s come into the series having won eight of the last 10 games played. They swept the White Sox and took two out three from the Red Sox and Texas Rangers. The A’s lineup can be and is formidable. They have guys with a lot of pop in their bats up and down the lineup. Marcus Semien, Chad Pinder, Mark Canha, Matt Chapman, and Khris Davis are all threats to hit the ball out of the park at any time during the game. Jonathan Lucroy and Stephen Piscotty are also making contributions to the A’s offense. Matt Olson and Matt Joyce are the A’s power hitters from the left side of the plate. The hottest hitter of all the A’s players is the switch-hitter Jed Lowrie. Lowrie is hitting about .360 and has six homers and 24 RBIs. He has been very consistent and has come through with several clutch hits.
Sean Manaea is the ace of the A’s staff. He has gone over seven innings in all five of his starts, and he pitched a no-hitter last Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox. Manaea has been very consistent and is now brimming with confidence. He will have his work cut out for him as he faces the very formidable Houston Astro lineup. He will be opposed by Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel is 1-3 with an ERA of 3.10. He won his first game of the season last week defeating the Chicago White Sox.
On Saturday, Daniel Mengden (2-2, 3.86 ERA) will go for Oakland, and he will be opposed by Lance McCullers Jr. Mengden beat the Red Sox last Sunday and gave up just one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings of work. McCullers is 3-1 with an ERA of 4.67. McCullers won his last two starts against Seattle and Chicago.
Sunday’s game will feature Trevor Cahill (1-0, 2.25 ERA) going against Gerrit Cole (2-1, 1.29 ERA). Cahill will be making his third start of the season. In his last start against Texas, Cahill went five innings and allowed three runs and four hits including a home run. Cole is the second pitcher in Astro history to throw at least seven innings while allowing two runs or less in his first five starts of the season.
The series should be a good one as the Astros want to show the A’s that they are the top dogs and the A’s want to show the Astros that they are on the way up and can not be taken lightly any longer.