Bob Levey, Getty Images

Sox In Houston For Weekend Series Against Lowly Astros

The White Sox continue their road trip with a stop in Houston to take on the Astros.  The ‘Stros are an AL worst 14-27 although they did just take two of three from their in-state rival Texas Rangers.

Houston has been slightly better at home (8-14) than on the road (6-13), but for the most part they have pretty much sucked no matter where they have played.

The Sox were able to avoid the sweep in Oakland thanks to Jose Abreu’s (who else) heroics.  The win snapped a four-game slide and will hopefully have the Sox feeling a little better about themselves as they head into Houston. The Sox lost four of seven to the Astros a year ago including losing three of four at Minute Maid Park.

Pitching Matchups

The series opens Friday night when Jose Quintana (1-3, 3.67 ERA) takes the mound opposite Collin McHugh (2-1, 2.81 ERA).

McHugh is in his first season with the Astros after spending last year with the Mets and Rockies.  He was claimed off waivers by the Astros in the off season and is now getting a shot in their rotation.

McHugh has made four starts this year, with three of them being pretty good and one being pretty bad.  In the three good stats McHugh has thrown 21.2 innings and allowed two earned runs (0.85 ERA) on 12 hits with five walks and 23 strikeouts.  In his one bad start he was hit for six runs (5 ER) on eight hits in four innings. Overall he has held opposing hitters to a .211 average and is throwing 67% of his pitches for strikes.

This will be McHugh’s first start against the White Sox and none of the good guys have seen him yet so you know what that means … here comes seven shutout innings.

Jose Quintana’s record continues to not reflect how he has pitched. He already has four no decisions in eight starts. His earned run totals in those games are two, one, three and one. In fact he has only had one start that did not qualify as a quality start. All that being said, Quintana still hasn’t pitched his best baseball but has been very solid almost every time he’s been sent out.

His secondary numbers are all pretty much on par with last year so it’s not like Q has been struggling, but as is usually the case with him, he’s just not getting the wins.

This will be the third career start for Quintana against the Astros. He is 0-0 (shocking) with a 3.65 ERA in the previous two starts, both of which came last year.  The one concerning number is that Quintana walked seven Astros hitters in 12.1 innings, although he did strike out 13 to offset the high walk total.  Jason Castro (3-for-5, 2 doubles) and Matt Dominguez (3-for-6, double) have had some success against Jose while Jose Altuve (1-for-7, 4 K’s) and L.J. Hoes (0-for-4, 2 K’s) have not.

Saturday’s game will be a late afternoon start and will see Hector Noesi (0-3, 7.25 ERA) taking on Jarred Cosart (2-3, 4.30 ERA).

Cosart is in his first full season in the Majors after starting 10 games for the Astros last year where he went 1-1 with a fantastic 1.95 ERA.  This year through eight starts Cosart hasn’t quite found the form of a year ago although he has been very good lately.

In his last four starts Cosart is 1-1 with a 2.10 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .228 average.  He has worked at least six innings and given up two runs or less in each of those outings.

Cosart isn’t a big strike out pitcher, averaging 6.3 K/9 but that is up from last year (5.0) and he has struggled at times with the base on balls. Cosart is walking 4.1 per nine innings and that gives him a pretty mediocre 1.55 K/BB ratio.

Cosart has been stronger at home this year than on the road.  Pitching in Minute Maid Park Cosart is 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .188/.264/.328 slash line.

The Sox faced Cosart last year and he pitched pretty well going six innings and giving up one run on seven hits with five walks and four strikeouts.  Paul Konerko (2-for-3) and Gordon Beckham (1-for-3) are the only Sox hitters with hits against him.

For the Sox, Hector Noesi will be making his fourth start after being claimed off waivers from the Rangers.

While he hasn’t pitched great, Noesi has certainly held his own and been much better than most thought he would be.  His ERA in the three starts is 4.91 but he has struck out 12 in 14.2 innings.  This might be the last start for Noesi as Chris Sale is set to make a rehab start on Thursday in AAA and hopefully will be rejoining the team soon.

But after two solid outings, I guess he has a shot to keep his job with Scott Carroll struggling of late. In that regard, Saturday could be a big one for Hector.

Lifetime against the Astros, Noesi is 0-0 with a 6.75 ERA in three relief appearances, all coming last year. He allowed two runs in 2.2 innings and gave up six hits with one strikeout.  Jose Altuve, Matt Dominguez (double), Marc Krauss and Jonathan Villar each have one hit off of Noesi.

The series finale will be Sunday afternoon when John Danks (3-3, 4.88 ERA) locks horns with Brad Peacock (0-4, 5.63 ERA).

Peacock will make his sixth start for the Astros after starting the season in the bullpen.  As a starter this year he is 0-3 with a 5.02 ERA and has allowed six home runs in 28.2 innings.  Walks have also been an issue for Peacock, he has issued 18 free passes as a starter but has struck out almost a batter an inning.  He recorded his first double digit strikeout total his last time out but also served up two home runs.

Peacock has struggled at home giving up 20 runs (18 ER) in 24 innings and opponents have hit .289 against him at Minute Maid Park as opposed to .222 on the road.  This will be the first time any of the White Sox face Peacock.

John Danks continues to battle for the Sox despite not really being too sharp for most of the year.  His last start was decent against the A’s giving up three runs in six innings with two walks and five strikeouts. He has gotten the walks back under control the last two times out posting a 13/3 strikeout to walk ratio.

The home run issue that gave Danks trouble last year has started to return lately.  After giving up just one home run in his first five starts (31 innings) he has served up four gopher balls over the last three outings (17 innings).

Danks is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA against the Astros including a loss last year at Minute Maid Park where he allowed four runs on five hits (2 HR’s) over six innings.  Chris Carter and Jason Castro both took him deep in that game.

Keys to the Series

Astros Offensive Woes: Houston is the worst hitting team in the American League in terms of batting average (.229) and runs scored.  They have also struck out the second most of any AL team, only the White Sox have more.

They do hit some homers, their 43 long balls rank fourth in the league.  Overall the Astros are a bad hitting team with only one regular starter, Altuve, hitting above .260 for the year.  The Sox have not pitched well lately so hopefully they will be able to get on track against the AL’s worst offensive unit.

Mas Cubanos: The White Sox Cuban trio of Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo has carried the team offensively.  Those three have combined for 23 home runs and 82 RBI through the first 42 games of the season. By comparison, the nine Astros regulars have combined for 105 RBI.

Spring in their Step: The Astros called up one of their top prospects, George Springer, in mid-April.  Springer hit .303 with 37 homers, 108 RBI and 45 stolen bases between AA and AAA last year.  After getting off to a rough start Springer has found his stroke hitting .302/.362/.558 with three homers and six RBI over the last 11 games.

The kid still strikes out a lot (42 times in 26 games) but when he makes contact he hits the ball hard.

Outlook

The Astros are not a good baseball team.  In addition to being the worst hitting team in the AL they have the third worst team ERA (4.71) and are middle of the pack in fielding.  I saw them about a week ago in Detroit and they continued to find ways to lose even when they got a decent outing from their starter.

The problem is the Sox have not been hitting well lately and they haven’t pitched well most of the season.  This is a series the Sox should win because despite their up and down performances, they have found ways to win games while the Astros have done the opposite.

A series win would get the Sox back near .500 and with Adam Eaton due back Sunday and Chris Sale (hopefully) soon to follow the Sox can get healthy and back to their winning ways by taking care of the lowly Astros.

 

Photo Credit: Bob Levey, Getty Images

matthoeppner

About matthoeppner

White Sox fan for as long as I can remember. Graduate of the Michigan State School of Journalism, Pitch F/X Operator for MLB.com, play-by-play announcer for the Michigan Regional Sports Network and new dad. I live in the Detroit area but am still a Chicagoan all the way.

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