Houston Astros: Two things to watch in the opening series in Tampa Bay

Manager A. J. Hinch of the Houston Astros (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Manager A. J. Hinch of the Houston Astros (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

Thursday is opening day, and the Houston Astros are ready to do battle at the Trop. There are some things they will need to come out with a series win.

It is hard to believe that the 2019 MLB season is already upon us. Frankly, it seems like Spring Training is getting shorter each year. Nevertheless, the Houston Astros have an Opening Series that starts Thursday in Tampa Bay.

If Grapefruit League was any indication, the Spacemen seem ready to take another World Championship. However, Tampa Bay is a team that the Astros have struggled against in the past. Throughout the history of both franchises, the Rays have the upper hand in the lifetime series 32-21, or 11 games over the .500 mark.

Ironically, the Rays have been dominant at home against the Astros with a 15-8 record over the spacemen. All of these records are courtesy of mcubed.net. With this Opening Series set to be on the Rays home turf, this could be problematic for the Astros.

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The first 4 games of the 2019 MLB season will be played at the Trop. Realistically, this Opening Series will be a tone setter in so many different ways. What can they do to secure the victory? Two very important things come to mind.

1. Don’t Blink, Or You’ll Miss It!

Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole will be the first two starters for the Houston Astros. For Tampa Bay, Blake Snell and former Astro, Charlie Morton will take the mound for the Rays. A nail biter of a pitching duel, if there ever was one.

The Astros starters have an average ERA of 3.38, while the Rays starters average an ERA of 3.59. Additionally, Verlander and Cole have the upper hand in WHIP, averaging 1.17 to the two Rays stars averaging 1.3. While all 4 pitchers use the four seam fastball and slider frequently, Morton and Snell have a dangerous curve ball and change up respectively.

The key to victory for Verlander and Cole is to stick with what they know and not get flustered. Both of these veteran players will be more than up for the task. Additionally, they will need to keep on target to throw the Rays batters off.

2. Carry the Big Sticks!

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Another key for this opening series is for the offense to make adjustments to pitches that they are not as accustomed to squaring up. The lineup has faced Snell and his changeup a few times to be able to put the ball in play fairly well. If nothing else, they can work the count to draw walks off of him.

It will be Morton’s curve that will prove to be the biggest challenge. No doubt, the Astros‘ bats all having to face their former teammate will be bittersweet. Morton will likely feel the same way when he’s on the mound.

One thing that may work in favor of the spacemen is Morton’s overall command issues. He was among the top pitchers in the league for hit batsman. Obviously, no one wants to see our boys hurt. But just maybe, taking a minor plunk to the quads or glutes may not be the worst idea.

All in all, the Houston Astros do face some early challenges in this Opening Series. But they are challenges that this ball club is more than willing and able to face head-on. Bring back the MLB regular season already!

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Are you ready for the Houston Astros to take the diamond in 2019?! We are just days away from the opening series in Tampa Bay. The ink is drying on some new contracts and the players are rearing to get going. Let’s play ball!