Friday, June 2, 2023
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MLB Preview: Chicago Cubs (19-22) at Houston Astros (22-19)


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TONIGHT’S GAME: The Astros will play the second game of their six-game homestand tonight in the middle game of their three-game series against their former NL Central rival, the Cubs…RHP Cristian Javier, who’s been on a roll in his last five outings, will start for Houston opposite the undefeated LHP Justin Steele and the Cubs.

MR. CRISTIAN: RHP Cristian Javier has rounded into form over his last five outings, posting a 3.03 ERA (10ER/29.2IP), a .179 opponent average, a 0.91 WHIP and an 12.13 strikeouts per 9.0 ratio in those starts…these numbers fall in line with what he did in a stellar 2022 season, in which he posted the lowest opponent batting average in the AL (.170) and also ranked second in K’s per 9.0 (11.74) and fourth in WHIP (0.95) (min. 140 IP)…his 11.74 K’s per 9.0 ratio trailed only RHP Shohei Ohtani (11.87).

IT’S BEEN AWHILE: The Astros and Cubs, who spent 19 seasons (1994-2012) together in the NL Central, have only played each other in 10 games since the Astros moved to the AL in 2013, with Houston going 5-5 in those games…the two teams last saw each other in 2019 in a three-game series in Houston from May 27-29 (Astros won two of three)…among all players to appear that series, only two players are currently on the active rosters on these two teams, 3B Alex Bregman and RHP Ryan Pressly.

LAST NIGHT’S WIN: The Astros and Cubs traded four-run innings early in the game, but it was a 7th-inning, two-run homer by 3B Alex Bregman that proved to be the difference in the victory…2B Mauricio Dubón (3×4) had his club-leading fourth three-hit game last night and 1B José Abreu tacked on a pair of RBI in a 2×4 performance…the Astros bullpen was nails, tossing 5.0 scoreless innings, while allowing just one hit and one walk, making a victor out of RHP Rafael Montero.

LATE ATTACK: The Astros offense has come alive late in games this season, producing 73 runs in the 7th inning or later, which ranks tied for second in the AL along with the Rays (73) and trailing only the Rangers (75)…the Astros top inning, in terms of runs scored this season, has been the 7th (29 runs), which included the Astros two-run 7th inning last night.

TRAFFIC:LF Yordan Alvarez has opened his season by reaching base safely in all 35 of his games, which is the franchise record for a start-of-season streak…he also is riding a career-long 12-game hitting streak…a few notes on his streaks below:

  • the last Major Leaguer with a longer start-of-season streak was OF Odúbel Herrera (40g) for the 2018 Phillies.
  • Alvarez’s on-base streak is the longest in the Majors this season, topping a 30-game streak by SS Xander Bogaerts.
  • going back to last season, Alvarez has reached base safely in a career-long 39 straight games, which is the seventh longest on-base streak in Astros franchise history…the last Astro to post a longer streak was 3B Alex Bregman, who had a 41-game run spanning parts of the 2019-20 seasons.
  • prior to Alvarez’s current hitting streak, his career-long streak was 10 games, accomplished from Sept. 9-21, 2022.
  • Alvarez is hitting .341 (15×44) with seven runs, four doubles, three homers, five walks and 10 RBI during his 12-game streak.

STUFF OF NIGHTMARES: LF Yordan Alvarez has been at his best in the big moments in his career, especially this season…he’s hitting .483 (14×29) with RISP, .563 (9×16) with RISP and two outs, .667 (4×6) with the bases loaded, and .391 (9×23) in close and late situations…Baseball-Reference has a leverage metric, which lists Alvarez as hitting .520 (13×25) with five homers, 30 RBI and a 1.866 OPS in high leverage situations.

AMERICAN LEAGUE RANKINGS: Among AL players, LF Yordan Alvarez ranks third in RBI (37), fourth in SLG (.567), fourth in OPS (.964) and tied for ninth in home runs (9)…3B Alex Bregman ranks tied for third in walks (25) and second in plate appearances per strikeout 10.71)…additionally, 2B Mauricio Dubón ranks eighth in batting average (.303).

ON THE BUMP: The Astros rank third in the Majors in team ERA (3.31) and third in the AL in starter’s ERA (3.41)…the Astros have done this by posting strong strikeout numbers while limiting walks…the Astros lead the Majors in strikeout to walk ratio (3.49) and in strikeouts per 9.0 (9.82), while ranking third in the AL in walks per 9.0 (2.81).

BULLPEN WEAPONS: RHP Phil Maton and RHP Bryan Abreu have been outstanding this season…Maton has allowed just eight hits and two runs in his first 17 appearances (20 IP) for a 0.90 ERA…opponents are hitting just .119 (8×67) against him, including a .100 (3×30) average by right-handers…meanwhile, Abreu has tallied 34 strikeouts in his 20.1 IP while allowing just three earned runs for a 1.33 ERA, and also posting a .145 opponent average (10×63).

THE INJURY BUG: The Astros have been hampered by injuries, as the club is currently without two members of their starting lineup (2B Jose Altuve and LF Michael Brantley) and three members of their rotation (RHP Luis Garcia, RHP José Urquidy, RHP Lance McCullers Jr.)…good news is on the way with Altuve currently rehabbing at Double A Corpus Christi.

ON THE MEND: 2B Jose Altuve has had his rehab assignment transferred to Double A Corpus Christi, where he will play tonight for the Hooks…Altuve began his rehab assignment at Triple A on Friday and played in three games over the weekend, going 1×13…the Astros All-Star second baseman has missed the entire season after being hit by a pitch during the WBC and suffering a fractured right thumb.

LAST START – 5/10 AT LAA: struck out a season-high 11 batters while walking just 1 batter and picking up a winning decision in a 5-4 victory over the Angels…allowed 2 runs on 3 hits…was the 2nd time this season he struck out at least 10 batters in a game this season…of his 5 career games with at least 10 strikeouts, 3 have come against the Angels.

ABOUT JAVIER: dynamic starter is making his 9th start of the season…the Astros have gone 6-2 in Javier’s 8 starts this season and are 12-2 in Javier’s last 14 starts dating back to last season.

  • has rounded into form over his last 5 outings, posting a 3.03 ERA (10ER/29.2IP), a .179 opponent average, a 0.91 WHIP and an 12.13 strikeouts per 9.0 ratio in those starts.

INVISIBALL: has held opponents to a .183 average (229×1250) throughout his MLB career…it’s the lowest opponent’s batting average (min. 350 IP) of any MLB pitcher since entering the league in ‘20…the next-closest players are MIL Corbin Burnes (.196) and LAA Shohei Ohtani.

AMONG THE BEST: in the AL, he ranks 8th in WHIP (1.01), 8th in SO/BB (5.40) 10th in strikeouts per 9 innings (10.41) and T-11th in strikeouts (54). VS. CHC: will face the Cubs for the 1st time in his career…has a career 4.26 ERA (29ER/61.1IP) in Interleague play.

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