The Astros’ first day off after starting the season with 10 straight games comes a day after they scored 10 unanswered runs to come back from a 5-0 deficit to win the final game of their first road series of the season, beating the Mariners 10-5. The Astros, who are tied with the Angels for first place in the AL West at 6-4, enter a three-game series with the A’s in Oakland.
The Astros are above .500, but they’re not winning games the way people expected them to. Their offense was supposed to lead the way and help out starting pitching that had some question marks in it, but their hitters — with the exception of OF George Springer — weren’t doing much until putting the 10-spot on the scoreboard Wednesday. Meanwhile, the team’s starting pitchers have put up a 3.24 ERA through 10 games, which is the sixth-best ERA among all 30 starting rotations.
SP Dallas Keuchel, who has been tremendous in his first two starts, gets the ball on Friday against SP Kendall Graveman, who has also pitched well early in the season. Keuchel is 1-0 and has allowed just 4 hits and 1 earned run in 14 innings over his first two starts; he has 3 walks and 8 strikeouts with a 0.64 ERA and 0.50 WHIP. Graveman has won both of his starts, posting a 2.08 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 13 innings. He has allowed 8 hits and 3 earned runs with 3 walks and 12 strikeouts.
Game 2 Saturday afternoon sees SP Lance McCullers Jr. taking the mound for the Astros, opposing SP Sean Manaea on the other side.The Astros have the clear advantage in this pitching matchup behind McCullers, who has the talent to be a top-of-the-rotation guy as long as he can stay healthy. He has a 2.77 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 13 innings over his first two starts in which he has gone 1-0. On the season, he has given up 11 hits, 4 earned runs and 2 walks with 17 strikeouts. Manaea, on the other hand, is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 11.1 innings. He has allowed 8 hits, 9 earned runs and 4 walks, while striking out 14 batters in his two starts.
Things look to be a bit more even for the series finale on Sunday with SP Charlie Morton getting the start for the visitors and SP Jharel Cotton going for the home team. Morton has gone 11 innings in his first two starts, putting up a 4.09 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP. He has allowed 12 hits and 5 earned runs while compiling 4 walks and 10 strikeouts. Cotton has been inconsistent in his two appearances, allowing 5 earned runs in 4.1 innings in his season opener, then throwing 7 scoreless innings in his last start. Overall, he has a 3.97 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. He’s allowed 10 hits and 5 walks to go with his 10 strikeouts.
Looking at the series outlook, expect a low-scoring pitchers duel on Friday, though I would give Keuchel the slight edge given his longer track record, while McCullers should be able to outpitch Manaea on Saturday and Cotton is likely to get the better of Morton on Sunday. I think the Astros can walk away from the weekend winning two out of three in their first series of the year with the A’s.