On Thursday, The Oakland Athletics (1-6) and Houston Astros (5-1) will meet for their second series of the young MLB Season. This time, though, the AL West rivals will be clashing at Minute Maid park, home of the Astros. The Astros had the Athletics’ number in the first series of the season in Oakland. Houston outscored Oakland 35-9 over the course of the four game season-opening set, winning all four games.
Since that series, the Athletics have lost two out of three to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Astros split a mini two-game series with the Los Angeles Angels.
The pitching matchup for this game features two arms that have each already faced their respective opponent. Cristian Javier (0-0, 4.91 ERA) pitched 3.2 innings against the Athletics in a no-decision on April 2nd. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and recorded four strikeouts.
On the opposite side, Cole Irvin (0-1, 8.31 ERA) went 4.1 innings pitched against the Astros in a loss on April 3rd. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits while striking out two and walking one.
In ten starts in 2020, Javier recorded a 3.48 ERA in 54.1 Innings Pitched while recording a 8.94 K/9. Javier might have benefited from opponent Batting Average on Balls in Play in 2020 hovering around .200, whereas .300 is average. We can see that replicated in his xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) which sat at 4.86 at the end of the season. In fact, in his first start of the season in 2021, opponent Batting Average on Balls in Play was at .300, and his ERA is at 4.91.
We can’t give too much credence to xFIP, however, without talking about some other expected numbers for Javier. For instance, his Expected ERA in 2020 According to Statcast was 3.02. His xWOBA also remained rather low at .268 for the season. The fact that Javier is in the top 10% of the MLB in Hard Hit % is perhaps one of the reasons we see him having a generous Batting Average on Balls in Play. Opponents do not hit the ball hard off of him, which would contribute to a lower BABIP.
Javier relies on a fastball-slider mix that accounts for nearly 90% of his pitch usage. In his first game this season, his average fastball velocity sat at 94 with his Slider 82.5.
Cole Irvin does not have a lot of experience as a starter in the MLB. He is just 2-2 with a 6.14 ERA in 22 innings pitched as a starter. Irvin has also gotten hit hard consistently throughout his career. In all hard hit ball categories he is in the bottom of the MLB. Against a dangerous Astros lineup, we might be seeing another early exit for the left hander.
The Astros have also hit lefties very well so far this season. In 102 at-bats against lefties, the Astros are slashing .392/.463/.637 with six home runs and seven doubles.
Astros Hitters Hot to Start
The Astros offense has come out of the gate scorching hot.
- Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel are both batting better than .400
- Kyle Tucker is second in the MLB with three Home Runs
- Yordan Alvarez is 5th in the MLB in RBIs with 7
Oakland Bats Silent to Start
On the flip side, the Oakland Offense has been nowhere to be found
- Mark Canha leads the team in batting average with a measly .222 clip
- They are last in the MLB in HR with just two
- They rank 26th in the league in RBI
Trust the Astros
It might be easy to think that the Athletics have revenge on their mind. In fact, I am sure they do, I just think it’s going to take a more favorable pitching matchup.
The Athletics might also be without First Baseman Matt Olson tonight, who is questionable with a left knee contusion. Given how good of a pitcher Javier is, I expect him to bounce back in some form tonight against a potentially short-handed Athletics lineup.
Expect the Astros (-155) to get to Cole Irvin early and secure a win in their Home Opener.
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