Opposite dugout: Astros struggling to continue last year's success

AstrosLogo.jpgManager: A.J. Hinch (2nd season)

Record: 17-28

Last 10 games: 3-7

Who to watch: 2B Jose Altuve (.328/.413/.582 with 9 HR, 27 RBIs), RF George Springer (.254/ with 9 HR, 25 RBIs), SS Carlos Correa (.253 with 7 HR, 20 RBIs), LF Colby Rasmus (8 HR, 31 RBIs), RHP Doug Fister (4-3, 4.22 ERA), RHP Will Harris (0.46 ERA, 11 holds)

Season series vs. Orioles: First meeting (4-3 in 2015)

Pitching probables:

May 24: RHP Chris Tillman vs. RHP Doug Fister, 8:10 p.m., MASN2
May 25: TBA vs. RHP Collin McHugh, 8:10 p.m., MASN
May 26: RHP Kevin Gausman vs. RHP Lance McCullers, 8:10 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Astros:

After a surprising run last year, the Astros are struggling to find their footing at the start of this season. Houston won last year's American League wild card game in New York against the Yankees and then came within six outs of eliminating the defending AL champion (and eventual World Series champion) Royals in the divisional round. But seven runs over the eighth and ninth innings in a Game 5 loss at Kauffman Stadium sent the Astros home.

And now, almost two months into 2016, Houston finds itself in last place in the AL West. Many will point toward reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel as a major reason for the Astros' disappointing start, although he'll avoid the Orioles for this three-game set. After winning 20 games last year, Keuchel is 2-6 with a 5.92 ERA on the year and 0-5 with a 7.78 ERA in his seven starts since his last win on April 15.

But it's not just Keuchel that is dooming the Astros. Although the staff ranks second in walks and seventh in strikeouts in the AL, it is 13th in batting average against (.270). The Astros also rank 13th with a 4.54 ERA, while the starters are also 13th with a 4.99 ERA.

The Astros bats rank last in the league with a .229 average, but the lineup is stocked with pop. Second baseman Jose Altuve is on a tear to start the season, slashing .328/.413/.582 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. Altuve also ranks second in all of baseball with a 2.9 WAR, behind only the Angels' Mike Trout. Right fielder George Springer is hitting .254 with nine homers and 25 RBIs, while reigning AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa is hitting .253 with seven longballs and 20 RBIs. Although he's only batting .238, left fielder Colby Rasmus has added eight home runs and a team-high 31 RBIs.

Right-hander Doug Fister looks to continue his sold start to a bounceback season after an injury-plagued 2015 with the Nationals in tonight's opener. Signing as a free agent with the Astros during the offseason, Fister is 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA so far, but is 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA over his last four starts. He is 4-2 with a 4.63 ERA in eight appearances (seven starts) against the Orioles. Righty Collin McHugh gets the ball for tomorrow night's game. He is 4-4 with a 5.13 ERA on the season and 1-0 with a 4.66 ERA in three career starts against the Orioles.

Second-year righty Lance McCullers will make just his third start after beginning the season on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. The 22-year-old is 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA after a couple of backward-looking results in this first two starts: He gave up five runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings against Boston, but got the no-decision in the Astros win, and then gave up only two runs on five hits in six innings in a loss to the Rangers. In his only start against the Orioles in his young career, McCullers pitched a complete game of one-run ball on four hits with 11 strikeouts last June 3.

Tillman vs. Fister tonight in Houston
Orioles sign Brian Duensing to minor league deal

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to https://www.masnsports.com/