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Series Preview: Bucs travel south to Houston for a battle with the ‘stros.

San Diego Padres v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Riding high on a four-game win streak after an impressive sweep of the San Diego Padres, the Bucs travel to Houston for a three-game stint with the Astros. Its been tough sledding for Houston lately, having dropped seven of their last ten but still holding a firm grasp of the American League West by 6.5 games.

The Pirates have turned things around after a disastrous early June. They have won six of their last ten and are climbing out of the National League Central cellar.

Houston’s offense has no problem putting up runs, tied for third highest run differential (+ 95) while allowing the 4th fewest runs (310) out of all 30 teams.

The Astros will send a trio of strong pitchers to the mound this series so the Pirates better have their bats ready.

Schedule

Tuesday, 8:10 p.m — Trevor Williams (2-1, 4.12 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.54 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Wednesday, 8:10 p.m. — TBD vs. Framber Valdez (3-3, 3.61 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

Thursday, 2:10 p.m. — Joe Musgrove (5-7, 4.57 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock (6-5, 3.62 ERA)
TV: AT&T SportsNet-PIT

All games EST

Astros Notes

Offense

-Michael Brantley is the Astros’ hottest hitter through the last ten games. He’s hitting .389 with one home run and four RBIs during his last 40 plate appearances. He’s not striking out much lately, with just a 10% K-rate over this stretch.

-Tyler White has been an on-base machine, posting a .459 OBP in his last nine games. White is drawing walks on one out of every four at bats.

-Yordan Alvarez has been flexing his muscles with four home runs through eight games and posting a .400 ISO

-Robinson Chirinos has been an offensive liability, holding a 59 wRC+ with no home runs or RBIs and a 40% K-rate through 25 plate appearances.

Pitching

-Cole, a former Pirate, starts the series for the Astros and is posting a 7-1 K/BB ratio in 2019. He has a 1.02 WHIP, a 35.2% chase rate, and his FIP (3.11) is somewhat in line with his ERA (3.54). Cole has not allowed more than two earned runs following a May 22nd outing against the Chicago White Sox (6 ER through 5 IP). Since May 27th, Cole has eclipsed 11 strikeouts three times with half of his starts resulting in double-digit Ks. His last start in Cincinnati was a no decision, throwing six innings of six hit, one-run ball with three walks and eight strikeouts.

-Game two has 25-year-old Valdez, a reliever for most of 2019, making his fourth start of the season. He’s a groundball-heavy pitcher (60.2%) who can put up strikeouts (8.3 K/9) but also will fall victim to a lack of control (4 BB/9). His last start against the Yankees (June 20th), who knocked him out in the fourth inning, yielded five runs on four hits (2 HRs) with three walks and three strikeouts. Valdez’s two starts before that resulted in 13 IP, 3 ER on nine hits, and 15 Ks against two walks.

-Peacock closes the series out for Houston, with 82 innings pitched and a 5-1 K/BB rate. He will give up some hard contact (39.3% hard-hit rate) but he’s able to keep the damage to a minimum as exemplified by his 3.71 FIP. The last month of starts have been up and down for Peacock. He pitched well against the Yankees in his last start but the preceding outings (against Toronto and Milwaukee) were some of his worst of the season. Against Toronto, he went five innings and gave up four runs on five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. On June 11th against the Brewers, he went 6.1 innings allowing four runs on seven hits.