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Know Your Enemy: Houston Astros

They’ll always be the Trashtros to us

St. Louis Cardinals v Houston Astros Game 3 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The wonders of a 13-0 win! And a road sweep!

Yes, the mood has lightened a bit this week, as the White Sox decimated Detroit. But let us not forget we’re less than a week from losing a home series to the Texas Rangers, and we’re flying into the teeth of a team with, uh, slightly better pitching than the Bengals.

The White Sox are 30-31, still in third place in the AL Central, and not particularly close to moving up (three back of the Guardians, five of first-place Minny). Chicago is eighth in a six-team postseason race, with the sixth seed currently occupied by Cleveland. The White Sox have improved their run differential to -35, which projects to a 71-91 final record. Even in the AL Central, that record will fall short of October ball.

Houston is trying to steal toward its 53rd straight ALCS this fall, jumping out to a 39-24 record and nine-game lead already in the AL West. The only MLB division leader with a smaller magic number (90) than Houston’s 91 is the Yankees, and something tells me the Bronxies won’t be playing .750 ball all year. With the second-best run differential in the league, the Astros are on target for a 96-66 season in 2022.

Lining Up the Clubs

Let’s just say there aren’t too many ways that Houston and the White Sox line up evenly. They are both in the upper half of baseball in terms of barreling up the ball (Astros 10th, Sox 12th) and have been bad at scoring runs (Houston 22nd, Sox 25th). Otherwise, by and large the Astros are a very solid if modest offensive club, and the White Sox ... really benefitted from that last series in Detroit to claim some semblance of dignity at bat.

That not might be entirely fair, as the White Sox seem to be more and more projecting as an average offensive club, while Houston ranks in the Top 10 in about half of the categories deemed key by MLB, including metrics like xAVG, xOBA, xSLG and xwOBA.

Also, don’t forget about xCON.

Pitching Matchups

Friday, it’s Lucas Giolito vs. Framber Valdez, and if you think at first blush that’s advantage, White Sox, think again. Gio sits at a 3.88 ERA and has caught a little bit of Dylan Cease Disease, no longer a sure thing to give the White Sox at least six (or even five) innings. (Valdez is at a 2.64 ERA, so, take that for what it’s worth.) Moreover, a couple of Astros have had killer success against Giolito in a small sample, with José Altuve and Michael Brantley both clocking two homers in just 12 PAs.

Saturday, it’s Johnny Cueto against Justin Verlander, and as much as Grandpa V is easy to despise, boy oh boy he’s a Hall-of-Famer and trucks a 1.94 ERA into the action. Cueto has a clear advantage when it comes to windup shimmies, however. And watch out for José Abreu against Verlander, six career homers and a .364 average in a hefty 49 PAs.

Sunday, the White Sox are playing possum, with Michael Kopech the possible starter but if not, dunno, Davis Martin or something. Houston starts a guy I’ve literally never heard of, Cristian Javier, running a 3.20 ERA. It just ain’t fair.

Maybe now you’re getting an idea why the Astros can be merely decent offensively and still sport a record 15 games better than .500.

DraftKings Corner

Hey friends, do you like sports? Do you also like gambling? Well, SBNation and South Side Sox have just the link for you. Stop by and visit the DraftKings Sportsbook and you can learn that before the opening game of the series, the White Sox are +140 on the moneyline and and +1.5/-140 on the run line ... I don’t know what those things mean, but I bet if you click the link you do! Or will!