The Houston Astros have been hearing footsteps in the rear-view mirror for the last couple of weeks. Those footsteps have arrived, as the Athletics and Astros are all knotted up in the American League West. With a 7-1 win yesterday, the A’s and Astros are all tied up with records of 74-49. And just like that, the Astros are staring down a wildcard instead of winning the division.
The wildcard isn’t a lock either, so it’s time for the Astros to buckle down and take the Athletics seriously. They went from being around 10 games back of the Mariners for a wildcard to a win away from being in sole possession of the AL West. You could see the A’s making their move weeks ago before anyone started to take note. They took it game by game and here they are giving the Astros all that they can handle.
Jose Altuve is being sent for a short rehab assignment and could return sooner than later. We’ll see how Altuve feels in Triple-A, which would be a boost to the ‘Stros offense if they can get him back soon. With the A’s threatening, it’d be a good time to welcome him back to the starting lineup. Altuve is the heart and soul of the Astros which has been missing from the lineup since his exit. They were without Carlos Correa as well, but have since gotten him back.
The real cog in their offense is Altuve, though. With the loss yesterday, the Astros have lost seven of their last eight games, including two losses in a row against Oakland. The Athletics are the new kids on the block and they don’t look like they’re going anywhere. Oakland are winners in six of their last seven games and have been playing quality baseball for the last two or so months. The A’s will be going for a two-game sweep of the Astros in Oakland this afternoon. Get our free Astros vs. Athletics pick below.
Houston Astros vs. Oakland Athletics Pick
Justin Verlander (11-8, 2.52 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (11-8, 3.44 ERA)
The last win for the Astros came on Wednesday, a 12-1 blowout against the Colorado Rockies. Verlander has taken two losses during this downswing for the Astros. He won on the 3rd in a 2-1 win over the Dodgers, but has had to swallow a couple of losses since. Verlander did not pitch badly in his last outing, he allowed 2 runs across 6 innings of work. The offense didn’t come to help out, though, as the Astros lost 5-1.
JV has been good this season, although he’s watched his Cy Young chances go down the drain. Early in the year it looked possible, but he’s regressed since a hot start. Nevertheless, JV is still one of the best hurlers you can find in the game today. He has been flawless on the road with an ERA of 1.74 and 0.94 WHIP. In his previous 13.2 innings on the road, he’s given up just 1 run. The A’s are hitting .248 against Verlander in 101 at-bats.
Sean Manaea enters Sunday with an ERA of 3.44 overall and a 3.39 ERA at home. He has been a big help to the A’s after he posted an ERA of 4.37 in 2017 in his sophomore campaign. He’s been good with a 3.31 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in his last three outings. Other than the one bad spot for Verlander against the mariners he has been sharp, not allowing more than 2 runs in four of five appearances on the mound. The Athletics have already won this weekend. At worst, they’ll take two of three off the Astros. However, the ‘Stros likely return to the diamond Sunday as a determined ball club. JV prevents a sweep and the Astros get out of the weekend clinging on to a lead in the AL West.