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Know Your Enemy: Houston Astros

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The White Sox host the Astros for a three-game series. What could go wrong?

MLB: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros
Star Power: Justin Verlander and the Astros’ pitching staff has looked mighty fine so far this season.
Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

This Houston Astros team is just fun.

Last year’s World Series was one of the best to watch as a casual fan with the Astros beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games.

The Astros have so many weapons all around...let’s begin with the pitching staff.

Justin Verlander is Houston’s ace and is looking more like the Cy Young award pitcher he was back in 2011. The right-hander’s velocity has dipped slightly since last year but still remains a touch below 95 mph, per Fangraphs.

Verlander boasts a 1.35 ERA and is coming off an ever-predictable pitchers duel between him and Bartolo Colon. James Shields is scheduled to face Verlander on Friday (I’m laughing, too).

It doesn’t get much easier after Verlander. Dallas Keuchel is coming off a Jose Quintana-esque game in which he threw an eight-inning complete game, but got the loss. Okay, well, maybe it’s not a Quintana-like performance without a no-decision, but you get the point.

Keuchel has run into some tough luck, possessing an irrelevant 0-3 record with a 3.52 ERA but a rather high 1.48 WHIP. He is also a past Cy Young award winner (2015).

World Series stud Lance McCullers and the rejuvenated, strikeout-machine Gerrit Cole also find themselves in arguably the best rotation in the MLB (is there really much to argue?). The Astros fifth starter, Charlie Morton, is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA. Yeah, they’re good.

So, what about the offense?

Well, the ‘Stros have the 2017 American League MVP batting second in their lineup. Jose Altuve is 5-foot-6, 165 pounds and can hit the daylights out of the baseball. The only stat he hasn’t maintained from last year is the home run ball; he’s yet to hit one out this year after putting 24 over the wall last season.

But there’s plenty of pop 1-9 in the order. George Springer is off to a slow start this season, but was a 5.0 WAR player last season. He has power and speed at the leadoff position (sound like anyone you know?).

Carlos Correa and Brian McCann have been the most consistent hitters so far in this early season for Houston. Even if Marwin Gonzalez is hitting .190 and Alex Bregman at .216, the offense doesn’t need to put up many runs with that pitching staff.

Regardless, the team’s weakness (which, really, wouldn’t be worrisome for many teams) is its bullpen.

Houston has gone with a closer-by-committee this season. Ken Giles and Brad Peacock each have a save, while Chris Devenski has two saves himself.

Tony Sipp has had some early troubles, giving up three earned runs in three innings. Right-hander Joe Smith has a 4.76 ERA in seven relief appearances this season. That’s about it.

Overall, this is a rock-solid Houston Astros squad. The White Sox will have to play their best baseball of the season to squeeze out a victory this weekend.

Probables:

Friday, April 20: Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.35 ERA) vs. James Shields (1-1, 4.50 ERA)

Saturday, April 21: Dallas Keuchel (0-3, 3.52 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (0-2, 5.50 ERA)

Sunday, April 22: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 5.57 ERA) vs. Reynaldo Lopez (0-2, 1.42 ERA)