The Astros begin a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics on Friday at Minute Maid Park. It will be the third series these two teams have played against each other so far this season with the first two not going so well for Houston.
Oakland (25-23) swept Houston (14-33) both times, outscoring the Astros 45-19. During those six games, Bud Norris was the only starter to last into the sixth inning and that was when he faced Oakland in the first series. But in his next outing versus the A's, he gave up six runs off five hits and three walks before being pulled with two outs in the first. Erik Bedard only lasted 1/3 of an inning when he allowed six runs off two hits and four walks.
But the Astros feel like they're a better team now.
“We were basically going through a rough stretch with our starting pitching at that point,” manager Bo Porter said. “Our starters have done a much better job as we sit here today, and they played well against us. We've given them a couple games by our inability to pitch to contact and allowed the counts to get real deep and pitch counts to get spiked up.”
“It's definitely picked up with the types of game we've been playing lately,” cather Jason Castro said. “We've been getting some good at bats and we've been playing team baseball – getting guys in and getting them over, guys that can come in and pinch run and steal bases and stuff like that. That's the kind of baseball we played in spring training and that's what has been successful for us.”
Houston also feels like familiarity with Oakland will help them this time around as well.
“That's the biggest thing, especially with switching leagues this year,” Castro said. “Really knowing who we're playing – that's a big part of it. When you can face teams and have a game plan and be comfortable with who your opponents – that's what makes it a little easier.
“Offensively, now we've seen what the pitchers are like. You can watch all the video you want, but until you step in the box and face guys, know what their arm looks like, know what they're trying to do, it's a little bit of an easier transition now that we've been through it. Hitters will be more comfortable and we can have some better at-bats.
Left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard (0-2, 6.00 ERA) will look to rebound from his last start against the A's when he didn't even make it out of the first inning after giving up six runs. He's coming off his best outing of the season, allowing two runs on seven hits while striking out three in a 4-2 win over the Pirates on May 18. Lefty Tommy Milone (4-5, 3.47) will take the mound for Oakland. First pitch on Friday is at 7:10 p.m.