Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Baltimore Orioles, May 9-11

This is the exactly the type of series that the Baltimore Orioles have to win. The leaders of the American League East return home for a weekend series against the rebuilding Houston Astros. As widely predicted, the Astros are in last place in the American League West with a Major League Baseball worst 11-24 record. The Astros’ farm system is one of the best in the sport. They are an organization that is on the rise. 2014 isn’t that year as they are at that awkward stage–they are the youngest team in the Major Leagues—when the Major League results have nothing really to do with the future of the organization. 

This is a series the Orioles have to win, if not sweep. 

Sometimes, there is too much made of the concept of “must win”. Through the lens of 162 games, no three game set, especially one in early May, is more important than the next. But, with the American League East tight from top to bottom, the Orioles have to win series such as this one. They must take advantage of the weaker opponent. 

{Discuss the series on the BSL Boards}.

What You Need To Know

Pitching Matchups

For the series, the Orioles will send out Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, and Chris Tillman as their starters. The Astros will counter with veteran Scott Feldman, Collin McHugh, and Jarrod Cosart. 

Feldman is making is first start after a spending time on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Despite missing three weeks, Feldman ranks amongst the leaders with American League starting pitchers with a 1.3 bWAR value. In four starts, Feldman has pitched 26.1 innings, allowed 16 hits, 9 walks, and has struck out 9 batters. That has added up to a 1.61 ERA. His FIP, however, is much higher at 4.00. 

The former Orioles starter has fared well against his old club as current Orioles are homer-less against him in 77 plate appearances. The veteran has held current Orioles to a .273/.291/.403 batting line in 79 plate appearances.  

Facing Feldman will be Wei-Yin Chen, who will make his seventh start of the season, and fourth at home. He is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA (19.0IP, 7ER) in three home starts in 2014, with the O’s going 2-1 in those games. The southpaw has faced Houston just once in his career, earning the win on July 30, 2013  (7.1IP, 7H, 3ER, BB, 9K) in a 4-3 O’s victory.

The Astros will throw 27 year old Collin McHugh in game two. McHugh has been a pleasant story for the Astros in the early going as he has made 3 starts, pitched 19.1 innings, allowed 14 hits, 4 walks, and has struck out 23 batters. Even more impressive than his 2.79 ERA is his 1.50 FIP. McHugh has never faced any of the Orioles batters and will look to continue his excellent start.

Facing Chris Tillman in game three will be 24 year old Jarrod Cosart. Cosart will be making his 8th start of the season and has compiled a 4.50 ERA (4.99 FIP) in 38 innings while allowing 29 hits, 18 walks, and striking out 28 batters. With the exception of a disastrous April 18th start against the A’s (0.1 innings, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 runs), Cosart has given the Astros better than league average results. Like McHugh, he has never faced any of the Orioles hitters. 

Chris Tillman has limited current Astros’ batters to one hit in 14 plate appearances. 

Gonzalez’s Two Starts Vs. Astros

While Chen and Tillman have had success against the current Astros roster–albeit in a small sample size, the Astros, actually catcher Jason Castro, hit Gonzalez in his two starts against them. Castro is 4 for 5 with 3 doubles and a home run against the right hander. Matt Dominguez added 3 hits in four at bats.  

Markakis Hot

Since April 16th, Nick Markakis has hit safely in 18 of 19 games. During that time, he is hitting .352/.446/.493 (25-6718) with 12 walks, four doubles, two homers, 11 runs scored, and eight RBI over that span. He is currently on a 15 game hitting streak, the second longest streak in the Major Leagues. 

Home Run Ball 

While it behooves the Orioles to utilize their power, the Astros are actually dependent on the home run ball. The young team ranks fourth in the American League with 37 home runs. The team is 10-9 in games when they hit a home run and just 1-15 when the opposition keeps them in the yard. 

Close Game Advantage

 A couple of years ago, the Orioles were unreal in close games and extra inning games. This year, The Orioles have had 17 of their first 32 games decided by one (7-3) or two (4-3) runs. In 2013, the Orioles had 82 of their 162 games decided by one (20-31) or two runs (20-11).  

Meanwhile, seven of the last 10 games the Astros have played have been decided by two runs or less. On the season, the Astros are 5-12 in games decided by two or less runs.

Springer Getting Acclimated

This will be the Orioles first chance to see the Astros’ prize prospect George Springer in action. After a brutal start, the 24 year old outfielder is up to .228/.291/.304. That doesn’t look like much, but he started his Major League career with just 6 hits in his first 35 at bats, including 11 strikeouts and five fielding errors. But, over his last 10 games, Springer is hitting .312 and he just added his first Major League home run. He struggles to make consistent contact, but he is an exciting young prospect who looks a bit more comfortable in the batter’s box as he is on an eight game hitting streak.

Wieters’ Presence

The injury to catcher Matt Wieters won’t result in Tommy John Surgery. For now, Wieters is limited to DH duties. The Orioles need his bat that he displayed during the first month of the season. Over his last nine games (before leaving the lineup due to injury),  Wieters has compiled seven multi-hit games and batted .375/.390/.600 (15-40) with three doubles, two homers and eight RBI.

Bullpen Woes

The Orioles’ bullpen ranks just 12th in the American League according to WAR. Their relievers have combined for a 3.67 ERA (4.36 FIP) and rank near the bottom in strikeout percentage. But, this bullpen is far better than the Astros, which ranks last according WAR. Astros’ relievers have posted a 6.09 ERA (4.88 FIP) and have the worst walk rate in the League.  

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About the author

Gary Armida  

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site,, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.

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