Series Preview: Colorado Rockies vs Houston Astros

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Jun 14, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros shortstop C. Correa (1) runs onto the field prior to the game against the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s Meet The Astros

I spoke to Eric Huysman, the editor of Climbing Tal’s Hill, FanSided’s Houston Astros site (@astrosCTH), about the ‘stros and what Rockies fans should expect in the four games taking place this week.

First off, you guys just ripped Felix Hernandez in a way that I’m pretty sure hasn’t been done, well, his entire life. Knowing that… how screwed are Rockies’ pitchers in Houston? Remember, you’ll likely see Kyle Kendrick for one of the four games between Houston and Denver.

The Astros are the true definition of an all or nothing team. When the offense is on, we can score runs like the best of them. Look at Friday’s game for example – a 10-0 win versus Seattle (and then a 13-0 win on Sunday!). Then, the next day, the tables are turned and the Astros can barely squeak out a run here or there. We still lead baseball with 83 home runs, but the Dodgers and Yankees are quickly catching up.

The Astros struggled against left-handed pitchers in the White Sox series and struggle against right-handed pitchers in the Blue Jays series. Also, it depends on the health of Jose Altuve, who is struggling with a hamstring issue. But Rockies’ pitchers will have to be good facing a hot George Springer, phenom Carlos Correa, and Preston Tucker among the other guys. It also looks like Chris Carter is waking up, which could be bad news for Rockies fans.

Speaking of pitching, former Rockie Collin McHugh has found himself in Houston (and we’ve written a thing about him!) – the Rockies will see him in Denver later this week. What’s changed from the time the Astros picked him up a year and a half ago, to today as he’s an important member of the rotation?

Funny how things can change. I am writing this after his worst start of his Astros career, giving up eight runs in three innings. He started off hot in April, but has cooled down since. I wrote on Sunday about this; the biggest change in his time with the Astros was that he put some more speed on his pitches, and he found a way to get more swings and misses via the curveball and slider. When on, he can be as dominate a player as anyone. When he is off, he gives up the long ball.

His next few starts will help the Astros decide how aggressive they will be on the trade market for a pitcher.

As far as the rotation goes aside from McHugh, it looks like the Rockies will see everyone besides Lance McCullers in the four game home-and-home. I guess Dallas Keuchel has been, like, OK for the ‘stros. Is he a legit Cy Young candidate this year, or just a starter off to a hot first two months?

He is definitely a legit contender, winning the AL Pitcher of the month for April and May. It’s doesnt matter who he is facing, he finds a way to keep his team in the game. He came out of nowhere in 2014 like McHugh, but Keuchel has proved that he is the real deal here. Astros fans refer to him as the Beard, but he is a bulldog type pitcher like Mike Hampton in his heyday. Unlike, say, Chris Sale, Keuchel doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but has great movement and knows how to pitch.

George Springer, Carlos Correa, Jon Singleton’s coming, the rotation has been great… are the Astros going to be a 90+ game winner for quite a few years here? Are those three pieces (plus guys like Preston Tucker) legitimate franchise cornerstones, or are you pessimistic about it all blowing up just when the team looks like it’s going to turn over and get (a) young, and (b) really exciting?

Springer, Correa, and Singleton could be similar to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and Nolan Arenado. Like the Rockies, they can’t win with those three players only. This team is exciting to watch when they are on, but can be depressing to watch when they are not. Correa and Springer offer the most excitement with their five-tool potential.

I like Preston Tucker, he has always proved the doubters wrong throughout the Astros farm system, but he has hit a cold spell recently. He doesn’t seem to hit home runs, unless he’s coming off the bench to pinch hit. He is going to have a lot of competition over the next few years, thought, so he will have to earn it.

You know things are going really right for the Astros when I wait until the fifth question to mention the man who’s far and away your best player, Jose Altuve. I know you’re biased, as you should be, but is he the best player in baseball? I love his game and how efficient he is – if you’re starting a franchise from scratch, do you take Jose Altuve? Mike Trout? Tulo?

Jose Altuve is the Astros’ best player for now. He’s been in a funk recently, and got hurt in Friday’s game. The team tends to go with his success, but it’s hard for the players with a recently rotating lineup. He carried the Astros at the beginning of the season, though.

I would go with Mike Trout over Altuve and Tulo any day of the week, even though Atuve was doing his best Trout impression earlier in the season. As good as Jose Altuve is, he is not the same player as Trout. Pretty soon Carlos Correa has the potential to pass Altuve as the best player on the Astros.

We have a poll question running Monday morning about Tal’s Hill and the Astros’ decision to remove it after the season. Two things I’m curious about: (a) was the decision the right one? And, (b), the ‘stros went on a cold streak after the announcement was made. Is the franchise cursed already and destined to lose 100 games this year because of it? (Kinda kidding on that second one… Kinda.)

It’s a big change for Astros fans, because it has been around since the beginning of Minute Maid Park. In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, I related removing the hill to removing the roof of the Astrodome. They are doing it to enhance the fan experience, put more seats in the outfield area. They also plan on having an Astros hall of fame area similar to what the Yankees have out there. It will also allow for fans to sit literally behind the outfield wall on playing field level.

Astros fans are not taking this well, but at this point nothing much can change. Fans want us to change our name to ‘Keeping Tal’s Hill.’ The Astros have the fans’ interests in mind for these decisions. It will look nice and bring excitement to fans.

Finally, Houston and Colorado will play the stupid two-and-two this week, which baseball should do away with – but that’s my personal gripe and best for another time. How do you see the four games playing out, and if the Astros were to win three or four of them, what do they need to do to get there? 

The Astros are letting the field catch up to us, so they really need a sweep of the four games. Will it happen? Not sure… But I’m looking forward to Houston’s sluggers hitting at Coors Field. The Astros have won with timely hits, decent pitching, and a good bullpen, but those three assets have let them down recently.

Collin McHugh has to rediscover his mechanics that helped him in 2014. Oberholtzer needs to build off his great game on Friday. It will be interesting to see how you guys handle our young phenom Vincent Velasquez, as he sat in the mid 90’s in his first start, hit 97 mph a few times. Keuchel will be a guaranteed win for the Astros.

The hitters need to be more consistent than they have recently, are you guys are in trouble if Chris Carter is swinging a hot bat.

It will be a great series, and could either help Astros get back on track or sink the Astros further to the pack.

Good luck Rockies!

Huge thanks to Eric for giving us such great insight into the Astros, a team the Rockies won’t see again this season after this two-and-two series at both clubs’ home ballparks.

We’ll see you guys tonight for game one of the series! 

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