Opening Day is upon us and one of the most interesting matchups is the Houston Astros vs. the Oakland Athletics. This first game will be a great one, then they will do it three more times. That’s right, these AL West rivals will play a four game series to start the 2021 MLB season. With the Astros vs A’s opening series only being the first four games out of 162, they may not feel like they matter much. However, Houston finished second in the division behind Oakland. The Astros won’t want that to become a trend. Plus, these teams will play each other seven times in the first ten days of the season. It’s early in the season, but these games are as important as they come.
The Opening Day pitching matchup is the only one set in stone to this point. Zack Greinke and Chris Bassitt will toe the rubber on April 1st. The choices for the teams were pretty obvious ones. Greinke has been one of the best pitchers of the past decade and a half, while Bassitt enjoyed the best season of his career in 2020. The 32-year old posted a 2.29 ERA and finished eighth in Cy Young voting.
After this first day, Oakland has yet to decide which way they will go, but it could look something like this: Cristian Javier vs Jesus Luzardo, Lance McCullers Jr. vs Sean Manaea, and Jose Urquidy vs Frankie Montas. Game two could feature a pair of young men with ace potential. Javier finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2020 while Luzardo was a top-five prospect in the pre-2020 prospect rankings.
Game three could feature McCullers Jr. and Manaea who are going into their first full season since returning from major injuries. McCullers missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Meanwhile, Manaea made only five starts in 2019 recovering from a 2018 shoulder surgery.
Finally, Urquidy vs Montas could be the pitching matchup of the fourth game of the series. Montas suffered a cuticle tear in his start on Thursday, March 25th. However, he should still be ready for a start on April 4th. If he’s not ready, pitchers like A.J. Puk, Cole Irvin, or Daulton Jefferies could step into his spot.
Oakland had the best bullpen in the league in 2020, but they lost their All-Star closer Liam Hendricks. Houston has a similar bullpen but the additions of Pedro Baez, free agency, and Joe Smith, opted out of 2020 season, should improve the squad.
Position Group Comparisons
Both teams boast a talented group of position players. Both teams lost a mainstay in their respective orders in George Springer, free agency, and Khris Davis, trade. While the A’s got Elvis Andrus in return and Houston didn’t get anything in return, the Astros arguably still possess the better group up and down.
Roaming the outfield for the Astros is Michael Brantley, Myles Straw, and Kyle Tucker while Oakland will have Stephen Piscotty, Ramon Laureano, and Mark Canha. Houston has the most experienced, Brantley, and the least experienced, Straw, outfielders in the group.
In the infield, the talent is even greater. From third to first, Houston has Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Yuli Gurriel. Meanwhile Oakland has Matt Chapman, Andrus, Jed Lowrie, and Matt Olson. The A’s may have the two best defenders on the teams in Chapman and Olson, but the Astros have a fantastic track record of offensive consistency, 2020 not withstanding.
Catcher and designated hitter between the teams are similar, but in reverse. On the Astros side, Martin Maldonado is the veteran with a solid track record. While on the A’s side, Sean Murphy has the potential to be a great, power-hitting catcher. Yordan Alvarez was 2019 AL Rookie of the Year and is a really good young player but must stay healthy. On the other side, Mitch Moreland is the veteran with a good track record.
Astros vs A’s Opening Series
Both teams have talent up and down their respective rosters. All of this incredible talent will be on display starting April 1, Opening Day. The Astros vs A’s Opening Series will run all the way through April 4, and will have no shortage of excitement.
Players Mentioned: Zack Greinke, Chris Bassitt, Cristian Javier, Jesus Luzardo, Lance McCullers Jr., Sean Manaea, Jose Urquidy, Frankie Montas, A.J. Puk, Cole Irvin, Daulton Jefferies, Pedro Baez, Joe Smith, George Springer, Khris Davis, Elvis Andrus, Michael Brantley, Myles Straw, Kyle Tucker, Stephen Piscotty, Ramon Laureano, Mark Canha, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel, Matt Chapman, Jed Lowrie, Matt Olson, Martin Maldonado, Yordan Alvarez, and Mitch Moreland
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images