Aug. 18 MLB Preview — Houston Astros (78-46) at Oakland Athletics (71-52)

(Zack Greinke photo courtesy Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Sunday, Aug. 18, County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif., 4:07 p.m. EDT.

Unexpectedly thrown into the role of streak stopper, Zack Greinke gets his first big challenge since joining the Houston Astros on Sunday when he tries to prevent the Oakland Athletics from completing a four-game sweep.

Last time out, Greinke (2-0, 3.00 ERA) looked like the pitcher everyone envisioned the Astros were getting when they pulled their stunning deadline day deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The right-hander threw six effective innings against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, yielding two runs in a 7-2 Astros victory in the first game of a doubleheader. Greinke avoided a problematic inning unlike his first start and struck out six while throwing 63 of his 102 pitches for strikes.

“Greinke did a really good job of pitching through a lot of baserunners, and when we had a chance, we had a couple of big home runs early to score and a couple of big walks and big hits late to come out with a nice win,” Astros manager AJ Hinch told the club’s official website.

Greinke has been an effective starter on the road this year, going 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts and had a shutout streak of 22 1-3 innings in June. He took a tough-luck loss in Oakland last year pitching for the Diamondbacks, giving up two runs in six innings of a 2-1 defeat.

Prior to that, Greinke went 6-1 with a 3.11 ERA in 11 matchups pitching for Kansas City and the Los Angeles Angels from 2004-12. He is 3-1 with a 2.98 ERA in seven career starts in Oakland.

Houston’s five-game losing streak is its longest since a season-worst seven-game skid from June 16-22.

A’s keeping pace in wild-card race while inching closer to Astros

Oakland (71-52), which can draw within 6 1/2 games of Houston for the AL West lead by completing a sweep of this series, has gotten separation along with Cleveland and Tampa Bay in the wild-card race as the Boston Red Sox are 6 1/2 games out of the second berth.

Brett Anderson (10-8, 3.95) is hoping for some run support and perhaps a little bit of luck to change in this outing. The left-hander is 1-3 with a 4.21 ERA in six starts since the All-Star break despite holding opponents to two runs while pitching at least six innings on three occasions.

Anderson had one of those three outings Tuesday night, limiting San Francisco to two runs in six innings but taking a 3-2 loss to the Bay Area rival. The southpaw blamed himself for the loss and one bad pitch that swung the game in the sixth.

“I threw a horrible changeup to Pillar and he was able to square it up for that third double,” Anderson told the A’s official website. “That was the difference in the game. If I’m able to keep it tight, I feel like it would give us a good chance going against their bullpen. To be down one there, I just have to be better there and get that final out. That sixth got to us.”

He is 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA in his last four starts at home and also took a loss there to Houston on June 1 after yielding three runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings. Anderson has lost four straight starts to the Astros dating back to 2015, posting a 9.53 ERA in those defeats. His lone win in five starts against them came in 2013.

Josh Reddick and George Springer have given the lefty plenty of issues, going a combined 9 for 13 with three homers and three doubles.

Notable Trends

The Athletics are:

  • 9-2 in their last 11 during game 4 of a series.
  • 7-0 in Anderson’s last seven starts after scoring five or more runs in the previous game.
  • 5-0 in their last five games vs. right-handed starters.

The Astros are:

  • 6-15 in their last 21 games after losing the first three games in a series.
  • 6-13 in their last 19 road games vs. teams with an above-.600 home record.
  • 0-5 in their last five road games.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Astros UNDER 5.5 runs (-131)

The A’s have held opponents to five or fewer runs in Anderson’s last eight starts, during which they have lost three times. The Astros also scuffled at the plate in their last two games, totaling six runs. Anderson’s recent home woes are a concern, but the adrenaline boost that comes with pitching for a sweep and trying to match Greinke’s expected quality are enough to think this should be a low-scoring game in general and specifically to the Astros.

****4-Star Pick****

UNDER 9.5 runs (-120)

The under is 6-2 in Anderson’s last eight starts overall and 6-1 in his last seven versus AL West foes. The under is also 14-6 in Oakland’s last 20 games vs. above-.600 teams and 6-2 in Anderson’s last eight outings against teams with winning records.

Greinke’s effort in Chicago improved the under’s mark to 9-2-1 in his last 12 road starts, and the under is also 9-4 in Houston’s last 13 intradivision matchups. The under is also 11-5-1 in their last 17 contests with left-handers.

***3-Star Picks***

Athletics +1.5 runs (+105)

Oakland clearly has the momentum in this series, but Greinke is still a formidable obstacle in trying to sweep Houston and maybe turn the AL West into a race again.

Rather than be greedy staring at the big plus-160 on the money line for the Athletics, the feeling is getting the 1.5 runs while still getting plus money is the better play. Oakland has won six straight and nine of 10 at home in addition to being 6-1 in their last seven Sunday games.

The Astros may want to simply forget about the week that was considering they will still have a sizable cushion atop the AL West and open a four-game series at home against the lowly Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Athletics -0.5 runs first 5 innings (+175)

The trends of both teams going in opposite direction make the alternate line on worth a play with a potential big reward.

The Astros are 0-6-1 at the midway point in their last seven games, with Greinke the only person to buck the trend of being behind. Oakland, in contrast, has been ahead in its last six games overall and in five straight at home. That is part of a run in which the A’s have been ahead after five innings in 14 of their last 18.

UNDER 5 runs first 5 innings (-105)

A confidence pick in Greinke keeping things close after getting back on track in his last outing. The five-inning under is 7-3 in his last 10 starts spanning back before being dealt and despite the over hitting in two of the first three games of this series, the under is still 14-4 in Oakland’s last 18 games.

UNDER 3 runs first 3 innings (-125)

Before Saturday’s quick start, the teams were scoreless after three innings in each of the first two games of the series. Greinke has blown through the first three frames of his two starts since joining the Astros, while Anderson has kept opponents off the board in the first three innings in three of his last four starts.

The A’s have had three or fewer runs in the first three innings in seven of their last nine games overall while failing to score themselves in six of those contests.



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