Fans who watch Toronto and Houston square off this late in the season are seeing two teams with very different short-term goals. The Toronto Blue Jays are fighting for a shot at the 2014 playoffs. The Houston Astros are just trying to avoid 100 losses in a season for the first time since 2010.
Toronto and Houston have split the first two of this four game series with two games remaining in Houston before both teams get a break on Monday the 4th. Toronto took last Thursday’s opener to extend a winning streak into 6 games. On Friday, Houston broke that streak with a 3-1 win, capitalizing on two poor pitches by the normally-reliable Aaron Loup.
The Astros are still struggling to produce runs, losing 11 of their previous 20 games. All but one of those losses were by two runs or more. As the Astros proved on Friday night, run production isn’t the only factor in the outcome of a baseball game. With two games left in the series, and Toronto chasing a berth in the playoffs, how will the final two games play out down south in Texas?
TOR at HOU: Saturday August 2nd
Saturday evening’s game features Toronto’s R.A. Dickey (9-10) looking to add a third straight win against the Astros’ left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.
Dickey’s most-recent performance, adding 10 K’s in a W against the Red Sox, was that of a pitcher on the rebound. For the Astros, the outlook from the mound on Saturay is not as optimistic. Coming off a tough win over the Athletics, earning a W after allowing three runs in 6 innings of action, Oberholtzer is just 3-7 on the year and looks to improve on an ERA that’s crept too far over the 4.00 mark.
Clearly the advantage from the mound on Saturday goes to the Blue Jays.
In terms of offense, there isn’t any good news out of Houston’s front office regarding George Springer’s injury, and the team’s overall offensive output has been anemic at best. Toronto’s powerful bats should make quick work of the downward-spiraling Oberholtzer. Fans have no reason to expect a repeat of Friday’s poor performance from Toronto’s bats, considering they are at present the league’s best power-hitters.
TOR at HOU: Sunday August 3rd
Sunday’s matinee pitching duel is set to be between Toronto’s Marcus Stroman and Houston’s Scott Feldman.
Stroman’s four-game winning streak will be on the line against an Astros pitcher struggling with an ever-increasing ERA. Feldman’s last five starts have ended in losses for Houston – the right-hander hasn’t had a win since June. Should Toronto’s Reyes and Bautista continue their career-long dominance against Scott Feldman, Sunday will be an easy win for the Jays.
The AL East playoff picture shifted drastically after the trade deadline sent the division’s two best pitchers elsewhere. Toronto should be able to capitalize on their divisional rivals’ softer pitching corps and are set up for a run at either the second Wild Card or even a Divisional berth into post-season play.
As for Houston’s hopes to keep the numbers in the L column in double-digits, fans are waiting on news regarding the injury to rookie phenom George Springer, hoping to end the year sitting outside the MLB doghouse. It would be a nice change of pace for a team that’s been the worst in baseball for far too many seasons in a row.