Well, it took a few weeks after various starting pitching changes but we finally earned our first decision in Total Bases. And fortunately, it turned out to be a ‘W.’
The rest of the series, however, was all nullified due to Toronto Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo changing course on his previously-announced rotation order. Oh well, at least at this point, each pitching staff around the league is more concrete.
So that brings us to this second weekend in August. The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are set to tangle for the latest installment in The Rivalry, among other intriguing matchups. For this week, let’s try to get a bead on how the controversial Houston Astros will respond in light of their mediocre play thus far.
Most expected the Astros to run away with the division once again. Instead, it has been the Oakland A’s who have jumped out to a big lead on the rest of the American League West. Instead of contending for the division, Houston is hovering below the .500 mark.
This weekend, though, they draw a tasty series with the perennial cellar-dweller Seattle Mariners. Let’s see if they’re ready to make a little noise.
Yusei Kikuchi vs. Framber Valdez: Valdez gets things started for the ‘Stros after eating a tough-luck loss his last time out, when he yielded just two runs (one earned) in seven innings opposite a talented Athletics lineup. He also racked up a career-high-tying nine strikeouts. The third-year southpaw appears to be making positive strides, as he has now notched 19 K’s compared to only three walks to go alongside his shiny 2.04 ERA.
For the M’s it’ll be the Japanese import Kikuchi, who is continuing his inconsistencies from his first major league campaign a year ago. I wouldn’t anticipate Kikuchi settling into a groove right here after all the Astros have done against the left-hander. In his five previous dates with Houston, Kikuchi is 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.69 WHIP. OVER
Nick Margevicius vs. Cristian Javier: The baseball world took full notice when Javier made his first career major league start at the end of July against the Los Angeles Dodgers and marveled, scattering only a pair of hits in five-plus innings and striking out eight. The youngster suffered a setback his last time out but the stuff is there for him to thrive.
It’s hard to determine if the same can be said of his counterpart in this one. Margevicius was mostly awful as a rookie last season, ultimately settling with a 6.79 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 17 games (12 starts) for the San Diego Padres. However, he did fare well in his first start as a Mariner, albeit in only three-plus innings, but he did manage to keep the Colorado Rockies off the scoreboard. I don’t see him duplicating that same success here. OVER
Justus Sheffield vs. Lance McCullers: McCullers bounced back tremendously from two inauspicious starts in his last outing, even carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh before eventually claiming his second victory. It’s a little alarming that — in his return campaign from Tommy John surgery — his K rate is down the lowest it’s ever been, but as he showed in that last assignment, McCullers still has the repertoire to enforce his will on hitters.
Meanwhile, Sheffield is also coming off a very positive performance. In fact, it was probably the best showing from the 24-year-old at the big league level thus far, impressively shutting out a tough Rockies batting order across six innings and racking up seven punch-outs. The former Yankee farmhand looks promising. UNDER
Last week: 1-0