The Houston Astros will head on the road to the Overstock Coliseum in Oakland, California on Thursday afternoon as they get set to conclude their three-game series against the AL West-rival Oakland Athletics.
The Astros have managed to keep pace in a heated division race, but still trail the red-hot Seattle Mariners by a half-game heading into play on Wednesday. Houston comes in with a 43-25 overall record, but the team has fared much better on the road this season, compiling a 24-11 mark away from home. Meanwhile, the A’s enter play on Wednesday night with a 34-33 overall record.
Verlander is early AL Cy Young favorite
Houston is expected to send veteran right-hander Justin Verlander to the mound for the final game of their series against the A’s on Thursday night. Verlander is set to become the third active pitcher to make 400 career starts and he’s pitching arguably better than ever on the mound for the Astros. At age 35, JV has put together an incredible year so far for the Astros, going 8-2 with a 1.45 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in 14 starts this season. Verlander has struck out a whopping 113 batters in just 93 ⅓ innings of work, while limiting opposing hitters to a minuscule 157 batting average so far this year. The Astros’ bonafide ace has pitched into the sixth inning or later in all 14 of his starts so far this season with 13 quality outings during that span and enters the series finale having won each of his last four decision on the mound.
Verlander has made just one start against Oakland since 2015. He tossed 6 ⅓ innings of three-run ball against the A’s as a member of the Tigers in 2016 to get the win. Houston is 14-5 in games that Verlander has started dating back to 2017, spanning 19 regular season outings.
Montas dominating as a starter in 2018
Oakland will turn to young right-hander Frankie Montas on Thursday afternoon, who continues to dazzle on the mound in his first season as an MLB starter. The 25-year-old came into the year with only two career starts and pitched exclusively out of the bullpen for the A’s in 2017, when he posted a 7.03 ERA in 23 relief appearances. However, Montas has been a revelation on the mound for Oakland in 2018, going 3-0 with a 1.25 ERA through his first three starts of the year. Montas has logged quality outings in each of his first three starts, while pitching into the eighth inning in each of his last two outings – both against the Kansas City Royals. He shutout the Royals with eight scoreless innings on June 1 and followed that up with 7 ⅔ innings of two-run ball in his last start against them a week later.
According to Baseball Savant, the current Astros lineup is batting .500 with a weighted on-base percentage of .610 in 11 plate appearances against Montas heading into this game.
- Astros are 6-1 in Verlander’s last 7 road starts.
- Astros are 9-2 in Verlander’s last 11 starts vs. American League West.
- Athletics are 3-13 in their last 16 vs. American League West.
- Athletics are 1-6 in their last 7 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
As well as Montas has been pitching this season, his peripherals indicate that he is due for some regression on the mound after winning each of his first three starts of the year. Montas’ 5.82 strikeout rate leaves much to be desired and he’s benefited from a .238 BABIP so far this year, which is far from his career mark of .313. Montas has also stranded an incredible 91.8 percent of his base runners so far this season, which has me believing he could be due for some bad luck in this one against a very dangerous Astros lineup. With Verlander on the mound for the series finale, take the Astros to win this game at the Coliseum in Oakland on Thursday night.