Manager: Bo Porter, second year
Last 10 games: 3-7
Who to watch: SS Jonathan Villar (.240/.301/.490, 5 HR, 13 RBIs, 8 SB); 2B Jose Altuve (.271/.323/.375, 12 XBH, 12 RBIs, 11 SB); RHP Scott Feldman (2-1, 1.69 ERA, .176 BAA); RHP Collin McHugh (2-1, 2.79 ERA, 0.88 WHIP)
Season series vs. O’s: 2-4, 30 runs scored, 24 runs allowed
The Astros’ overall pitching numbers are nothing impressive, but they have a daunting alignment in store for the Orioles when they come to Baltimore for a three-game weekend series.
It all starts with right-hander Scott Feldman, who returns from the disabled list to face his former team. Feldman made his last 15 starts of 2013 with the Orioles. He hasn’t pitched since April 17 because of right biceps tendinitis, but the Astros have to hope their opening day starter can pick up where he left off.
Signed away from Baltimore with a three-year, $30 million deal over the winter, Feldman went 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA over his first four starts.
Feldman is followed by 26-year-old right-hander Collin McHugh, who allowed one run in 15 1/3 innings over his first two starts before being battered for six runs (five earned) in four frames his last time out.
Right-hander Jarred Cosart, 23, has been hot, as well, pitching to a 1.83 ERA over his last three starts, holding opponents to four earned runs in 19 2/3 innings.
Even with those three, the Astros are last in the majors with a 4.91 ERA. The rotation has been a bit better with a 4.22 starters’ ERA, but Houston is last in the league with a 6.09 bullpen ERA.
The Astros allowed three runs or fewer three times during a just-completed four-game series against the Tigers and snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over Detroit on Thursday.
The offense hasn’t been much of a threat, ranking 27th in the majors with 120 runs and 29th with a .218 average. The Astros are, however, tied for sixth in the majors in home runs, which could come into play at a ballpark like Camden Yards. Six players have at least three homers, led by five apiece from third baseman Matt Dominguez and shortstop Jonathan Villar.
Villar leads the Astros with a .791 OPS and second baseman Jose Altuve has been their most well-rounded weapon, batting .271 with 12 extra-base hits, 12 RBIs and 11 steals.
However, the matchup between three solid Houston starters and the surging Orioles lineup will be the one to watch all weekend.