If there is one game to watch on Monday, it has to be the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros. A couple of months ago this may have looked like a walkthrough series for the Astros, but the Athletics have flown up the standings to make the Astros acknowledge that they are there. A strong series here for the A’s, and they may come out of it with the lead in the American League West. The Astros avoided the Athletics getting any closer than 1.5 games with a win yesterday.
Conversely, the Athletics held their ground by defeating the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. The division is still up for grabs with a lot of baseball left to make a move forward or regress. The Astros just have to remember that as they go into September. Oakland has made it this far already and I wouldn’t take them lightly at this point.
I think the Astros thought they were going to have a comfortable ride in the AL West. Up until a few weeks ago their lead did in fact look safe. So much for that, though, as the determined Athletics look committed to catching the Astros. It looked highly unlikely they had a chance to catch a wildcard, and once they took over the Mariners, they had their sights on the Astros at the top of the division.
They aren’t there at the moment, at least not yet, but it’s going to be interesting to see where things are following Wednesday. The Athletics were dealt a blow with the loss of Sean Manaea recently. Manaea was put on the 10-day DL with a shoulder injury. The A’s don’t hope it lingers because he’s given some solid outings, most recently a win over the Twins. Brett Anderson will take on Gerrit Cole on the mound this evening in Houston. Head below for our free Athletics vs. Astros pick.
Oakland Athletics vs. Houston Astros Pick
Brett Anderson (3-3, 3.47 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (11-5, 2.73 ERA)
With Lance McCullers looking more unlikely to rejoin the rotation, there is going to be greater pressure placed on the rest. However, the four-man combo of Verlander, Cole, Morton, and Keuchel can more than get the job done. If I had to pick a rotation to go into the postseason with, it’s hard to argue not selecting that group. The Astros boasted their bullpen at the deadline by acquiring Roberto Osuna from the Blue Jays. That was the only weak link in the pitching staff that needed improving. Osuna earned his 11th save on the season against the Angels yesterday.
Gerrit Cole enters with a strong 2.73 ERA in 2018. He has seen his career go from good to great in Houston. Cole has pitched like he’s proving something to the Pirates. He wasn’t happy when they gave up on him after five years of providing solid work on the mound. Cole has been slightly better at home with an ERA of 2.67 and a 0.93 WHIP in Houston. He’s allowed more than 3 runs at home only twice this season. The Athletics are hitting .246 against Cole with 2 long balls in 134 at-bats.
The Astros will have to tame a hot arm Monday night. Brett Anderson is pitching some of the best baseball of his career. He enters with an ERA of 3.47 and just about unhittable recently. Anderson has pitched shutouts in his last two starts and three of his last four outings. He’s allowed just 6 hits in his previous 14.2 innings of play.
Anderson sports an ERA of 0.92, 0.56 WHIP, and .162 WHIP in his last three contests. In five of his last six showings, Anderson has given up 2 or less runs. He’s allowed an average of 3 hits per game in his last four. The Astros torched him for 7 runs in only 3 innings back in May, but since hitting the rocks early in the season, he’s responded extremely well. He will likely have a better hold of the offense in the second meeting. I like this series to resemble a postseason atmosphere in Houston. Every hit is going to be important tonight in what should be a low-scoring duel.