The Houston Astros will visit the San Francisco Giants for a three-game series in Oracle Park, starting Friday at 9:45 p.m. ET.
This will be the first time this season that the Giants and the Astros have faced each other and could end up being a World Series preview as both teams soar toward the top seeds in their respective leagues.
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The Astros will enter the early-weekend matchup with a 63-40 record that is the best in the American League and 5½ games ahead of their closest division rivals, the Oakland Athletics.
Houston made a few moves ahead of the trade deadline, most notably acquiring Yimi Garcia (3-7, 3.47 ERA) from the Miami Marlins and Kendall Graveman (4-0, 0.82 ERA, 10 saves) from the Seattle Mariners.
“We are always looking to improve all aspects of the roster,” said Astros General Manager James Click after securing a trade for Graveman on Tuesday.
The Astros have won five of their last six and have woken up after their bats went silent coming out of the All-Star break, scoring 11, eight, and eight runs in their last three games.
Six members of the Astros’ roster have hit double-digit home runs, with Jose Altuve leading the team with 23. Altuve has also hit .277 at the plate for 60 RBIs and is managing to perform at a high level despite most of the league having it out for him and his teammates who were caught red-handed in a cheating scandal.
No team in baseball has scored more runs than Houston, though its bullpen has not been that far off, boasting the ninth-best team ERA in the league. Frambler Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will be on the mound Friday, looking to build off of his most recent start in which he blanked the Texas Rangers for six scoreless innings.
The San Francisco Giants will travel to Texas carrying the league’s best record at 64-38 and with a three-game cushion on the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers, whom they just took two of three games from leading up to the Astros’ series.
The Giants were linked to a few high-profile players ahead of the deadline and pulled off a deal with the Chicago Cubs on Friday to acquire Kris Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP
— MLB (@MLB) July 29, 2021
San Francisco has massively outperformed its expectations, though it will be in for a serious battle with the surging Astros. The Giants are also coming off of an emotional series with the Dodgers, though they will be riding high with confidence after a 5-0 victory in the final game.
San Francisco ranks in the top 10 in scoring and home runs, though it has fallen to 19th in batting average. The Astros are the fourth-best team at limiting opponents’ opportunities at the plate, which could spell trouble for the visitors.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford (.286 BA, 18 HR, 60 RBI) has been cleared to return after a minor injury that held him out of action for a couple of weeks, and he will be hoping to add to what has been the best season of his 11-year career in California.
Meanwhile, Giants ace Kevin Gausman will get the starting nod. The 30-year-old All-Star has gone 9-4 with a 2.28 ERA, the fifth-lowest among qualified pitchers.
Gausman’s last start was his worst, during which he gave up six earned runs to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 4.1 innings. It is unlikely that lightning will strike twice, but if there is a team that can dig into Gausman, it is the Astros.
Looking at the series as a whole, the pitching matchup will be relatively even. Houston will have the opportunity to utilize its new relievers, while the Giants will stick with their usual and reliable crew of closers.
Although both teams are coming off series victories, the Astros should have a little more momentum after successfully completing a couple of trades and upgrading their squad, while the Giants are watching everyone around them get better.
Houston has been hitting the ball better than San Francisco has lately, though this will be put to the test against an incredibly stingy Giants’ rotation.
The Astros are an even .500 against teams like that Giants that are top-five in ERA, while San Francisco is also .500 against top-five scoring teams like Houston. Because these numbers are exactly the same, the pitching matchup is relatively even, and both teams are playing well. This series is going to come down to which team is more talented — and that is the Astros.
The Giants are still one of the best teams in baseball and this does not mean that they could not take down the Astros in a postseason matchup. Still, the Astros are the choice