Here we are in the middle of the most difficult stretch of our schedule, and despite losing the last two series we are tied for the first wild card spot and 4.5 games in front of the Cardinals for the second. The last two series did not go quite as well as we may have hoped, losing both 2-1. However, we fought the Cubs and Dodgers well (despite what some apocalyptic naysayers might tell you); they are after all the team with a shot at the best record in history, and the reigning World Series Champions. Our trek through the fire doesn’t let up just yet, as we now face the Houston Astros for a four game home and home series with two in Phoenix and two in Houston. Let’s see what we can expect from the coming series!
Game 1: Collin McHugh vs. Zack Greinke
McHugh missed most of this season with an elbow injury, and has only started four games. Those four games have yielded mixed results, but he has mostly struggled. His last start was pretty awful as he went 5.1 innings and gave up 7 runs, so ideally this start is an exact replica. Zack Greinke is 13-5 on the year with a 3.14 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 149 innings. At home, Greinke has been outstanding this year going 10-1 with a 2.52 ERA over 85.2 innings with 103 strikeouts. A win in this game would be a huge boost to a squad that is in desperate need of some wins in this very tough stretch. Advantage here to the Dbacks.
Game 2: Brad Peacock vs. Anthony Banda
Peacock has come out of nowhere this year to be an absolute revelation for the Astros, and has been a big part of their success in 2017. Brad pitched a combined 36.2 innings the last two seasons, and put up a 4.72 ERA in his last full season in 2014. He was a 41st round draft pick of the Nationals back in 2006, so it’s not like he was a well-known prospect either. Speaking of lesser known prospects, I think that Banda would fit into that category. While he is well known in the circle of Diamondbacks fans, and perhaps more engaged fans around the league, he is still rather unknown. But I think that will be changing soon, since he has shown an excellent fastball with a breaking pitch that has a chance of being great. Tough game to peg, but I think that the advantage here goes to the Astros.
Game 3: Taijuan Walker vs. Charlie Morton
Game 3 transitions to Houston, and with that comes the end of the home stand. Taijuan Walker will be looking to atone for a rough outing against the Cubs in which he allowed 5 ER over 5 innings. One of the things that I would like to see from Walker would be to pitch deeper into games. He has only pitched 7+ innings twice this season, with the majority of his starts being either 5 or 6 inning outings. He seems to only be a minor tweak away from having the kind of breakout year that Robbie Ray has been having, but he just can’t quite put it all together consistently. Charlie Morton is having a decent year in his first year with the Astros and has put up a 104 ERA+ over 101 innings. Tough to say here, so I’ll call this one a push.
Game 4: Patrick Corbin vs. Mike Fiers
Patrick Corbin had one of the best outings of his career on Saturday, pitching 6.2 innings of shutout ball against the Cubs while striking out 8 and walking just one. Corbin can be best thought of as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is either outstanding this year and resembles the Corbin from the first half of 2013, or he struggles mightily. Hopefully Mr. Hyde shows up on Thursday… Or is it Dr. Jekyll that we want? … Oh well. Opposing him will be Mike Fiers, who is having a very underwhelming year for the Astros. Below league average, but above replacement level is all you really need to know about Fiers this year. This game is a push too.
Houston’s pitching has been stellar this year, but their offense has been otherworldly. They are averaging an absurd 5.78 runs per game which is half a run per game better than second place in the AL. They lead the majors in
- Home Runs
They are freaking good.
Led by a middle infield as good as any in recent memory, they have the skill to be dangerous, and like the Cubs they have age on their side. Jose Altuve is hitting an astounding .362 on the year and he is just one of four Astro’s qualifying hitters that are triple slashing .305/.381/.565 or better. They also have 11 players that have 10+ Home Runs. ELEVEN! … How is that even possible? For comparison’s sake, the Dbacks have five.
The Diamondbacks are slowly sliding back towards being a league average offense. They have been struggling with RISP lately, and they also haven’t been firing on all cylinders. If one of our hitters has a good night, it seems like all of the others do not. Not to gripe about a team that is 13 games over .500, but we need to get this offense going otherwise the next month and a half will be very stressful. Also, what has been going on in the two hole?! Adam Rosales? Chris Iannetta? Really? Just seems like odd choices to me… In any case, our offense has some tough times ahead because we will be facing some difficult pitching over the next couple of weeks.
I think that we are very fortunate to catch the Astros at a time where they have been struggling, and hopefully that rolls over to this series too. We are also fortunate because we have our ace pitching in this series, while we miraculously miss Dallas Keuchel. But all things considered, the Astros are still an amazing team; not quite as good as the Dodgers, but still incredible. I think that we will split the series with two wins each.