About one quarter into the MLB season, the top of the 2021 AL West race looks similar to what experts predicted. The two teams battling it out at the top are the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros. With the talent on these two teams, they will probably be fighting for the AL West crown all season long. The war continues Tuesday, where the teams will start a three game series in Oakland. Here are some key storylines and notes heading into this pivotal Astros vs A’s series.
The Astros and A’s enter play Tuesday with just half a game of separation in the 2021 AL West race. Oakland is at the top with a 25-17 record, while Houston has posted a 24-17 record. While there is still three quarters of the season to go, division matchups are always important. You can’t lose too many division games and expect to come out on top. This statement pertains to these two teams in particular. Houston won each of the first five games against Oakland this season, but lost the last two. Overall, the Astros are 5-2 against the A’s this season.
Of the two teams, Houston is hotter entering play on Tuesday. They are 8-2 in their last ten games, and are riding a six game win streak. Oakland, while not as hot, has been staying afloat, going 6-4 over their last ten games.
Astros, A’s Series Probable Starters
Taking the mound for the Astros and A’s in Game One will be Cristian Javier and Sean Manaea. Javier enters the game with a 3.08 ERA in 38 innings pitched. Manaea enters with a 4.40 ERA in 43 innings pitched. His ERA is a little inflated though after giving up seven runs in his last start.
Game Two will feature Zack Greinke and Frankie Montas. Greinke has struggled a bit with consistency in 2021, and sports a 4.18 ERA in 51.2 innings. Despite a 4.93 ERA, Montas is leading Oakland in wins with five.
The final game of the series will feature a pair of pleasant surprises in Luis Garcia and Cole Irvin. Garcia has filled out the back-end of Houston’s rotation rather well, posting a 3.34 ERA in 35 innings. Irvin had to fight for a spot in Spring Training, and he earned it. He continues to earn his keep by pitching to a 3.02 ERA in 47.2 innings.
Other Series Notes
A notable name who is not among the series probable starting pitchers for the A’s is Mike Fiers. Fiers, a former Astro, is the man who told The Athletic about Houston’s sign-stealing in 2017. Fiers is on the injured list due to an elbow injury, and while he is eligible to return for the Astros series, it does not appear it will happen. The veteran has not faced the Astros since the scandal was revealed before the 2020 season. Fiers has been limited to two starts this year because of injury. He made 11 starts in 2020, but coincidentally, none were against Houston.
Not everyone believes in the run differential stat, and the A’s are showing that it isn’t the end all-be all. Oakland enters Tuesday with a -8 run differential, despite being eight games over .500. On the other hand, Houston, who is half a game behind Oakland, has a +56 run differential. This figure is second best in the Major Leagues. Ultimately, the only stat that matters is win-loss record, and both of these teams are looking to come out of this series with the better win-loss record.
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