The highly anticipated showdown between the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics will take place with no crowd noise and without Mike Fiers when the clubs meet in Oakland to open a three-game series on Friday night.
The meeting will be the first since the Astros won 11 of 19 from the A’s last season en route to a 10-game triumph in the American League West.
Astros right-hander Zack Greinke will duel A’s righty Chris Bassitt in the first of 10 team head-to-heads this season, with Oakland hosting seven, including a four-game series in September.
Houston won’t see A’s righty Fiers in this series after the ex-Astro pitched Oakland to a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers on Thursday that completed a three-game sweep and ran the A’s winning streak to six games.
Fiers was seen as the primary whistleblower in the Astros’ trash-can-beating scandal that has tarnished their 2017 championship.
Bassitt was asked Thursday about a possible distraction and/or any increased incentive seeing the Astros might bring.
“There’s somewhat of a trap there, and I’m not going to fall for it,” he told reporters. “We don’t need added incentive to win the division. We’re in their way, and they’re in our way.”
The A’s (9-4) begin the series 2 1/2 games up on the Astros (6-6), who flew into Oakland on Thursday night after having blown a ninth-inning lead in a 5-4 defeat at Arizona.
Bassitt (1-0, 0.93) never went head-to-head with Greinke (0-0, 5.00) last season, but did duel a pair of Astros heavyweights among three starts against them.
He got a no-decision in a 6-4 home loss in June when opposed by Gerrit Cole, a 4-2 loss when up against Justin Verlander on the road in July, and finally a win when he faced Rogelio Armenteros in an 8-4 home victory in August.
The 31-year-old has pitched brilliantly this season, shutting out the Los Angeles Angels over four innings in Oakland’s opening series before allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings last week at Seattle. He has struck out 12 and walked just one in his two starts.
Bassitt has gone 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA in six games (five starts) against the Astros in his career.
Meanwhile, the schedule says the game is on the road for the Astros, but Greinke has been right at home in previous visits to the San Francisco Bay Area to face the A’s and San Francisco Giants.
The 36-year-old has gone a career 21-5 against the A’s and Giants, including 10-1 on the road.
He’s 8-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 18 games (14 starts) against the A’s in his career.
The Astros have lost both of Greinke’s starts this season as he’s pitched a total of just nine innings. He’s allowed five runs and seven hits over that stretch, walking two and striking out six.
Houston enters the series with closer issues. After losing Roberto Osuna, who likely needs season-ending Tommy John surgery, earlier in the week, new closer Ryan Pressly failed to slam the door on a 4-3 lead in the series finale on Thursday. He allowed two runs in the ninth on a walk and three hits to the Diamondbacks.
“It’s scary,” Astros outfielder George Springer said of Osuna’s injury, before himself spraining his right wrist Thursday against Arizona. Springer had to leave the game and is questionable for the Oakland series.
“This is a leaguewide thing,” Springer continued. “I think you’re seeing a lot of guys throughout the league start to get injured, a lot of pitchers. It’s scary, especially when it hits home. Osuna has been an absolute anchor for us.”
–Field Level Media