The Houston Astros got off to a slow start this season likely for two reasons: A World Series hangover and not having All-Star second baseman, former AL MVP and future Hall of Famer Jose Altuve due to injury but he is likely to make his season debut on Friday with the Astros as huge favorites on the MLB odds against the visiting Oakland A’s.
MLB Betting News: Astros All-Star Jose Altuve Expected To Make Season Debut Friday Vs. Athletics
When: May 19, 8:10 PM ET
Where: Minute Maid Park
During the World Baseball Classic in March while playing for his native Venezuela, Altuve in a game against Team USA was hit by a pitch by Colorado Rockies closer Daniel Bard and left the game immediately. It turned out to be a fractured thumb that was expected to keep Altuve out until June if not longer but he is way ahead of schedule. Altuve, who recently turned 33, slashed .300/.387/.533 with 39 doubles and 28 home runs last season and helped lead the Astros to their second World Series title.
Altuve began the second leg of his minor-league rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi on Tuesday night after spending last weekend playing with Triple-A Sugar Land. The eight-time All-Star got the start at second base and went 0 for 5 in his first game with Corpus Christi on Tuesday and then was 1-for-4 on Wednesday. He reached on an error in the sixth inning and had an infield hit in the eighth that probably should have been ruled another error. GM Dana Brown noted that Altuve hasn’t had any issues with his thumb and he’s likely to be activated ahead of Friday’s series opener barring a setback.
Manager Dusty Baker will have a good problem on his hands as Mauricio Dubon has played well at second and as the leadoff hitter in Altuve’s spot. Formerly a utility piece who saw inconsistent playing time in San Francisco and in his first season with Houston in 2022, Dubon has taken the starting second base role and run with it in Altuve’s absence to start the year, posting a .309 batting average in his first 156 plate appearances.
He had a career-long 20-game hitting from April 2-26, which ranks as the longest hitting streak in the majors this season. Dubon was the 15th player in Astros franchise history to record a 20-game hitting streak and it was the longest hitting streak by an Astro since Hunter Pence recorded a 23-game streak from May 19-June 13, 2011.
A return to a super-utility role seems likely as Dubon’s versatility is arguably his best asset as a player, with experience playing second base, shortstop and all three outfield positions. Dubon could see reps in left field, for example, on days in which Yordan Alvarez is relegated to designated hitter duty. Alvarez opened his season by reaching base safely in all 36 of his games, a franchise record for a start-of-season streak. However, that streak ended on Wednesday as he was 0-for-5 with no walks in a loss to the Cubs. Alvarez ranks second in the AL in RBI (39), third in OPS (.973), fifth in SLG (.573) and tied for ninth in homers (9).
Oakland starts struggling lefty Ken Waldichuk (1-2, 7.02 ERA) on Friday, and Altuve is 1-for-1 career off him with a walk. Waldichuk took the loss in each of his first two starts, allowing 14 runs on 17 hits in 8.2 innings (14.54 ERA). He is 1-0 with a 5.01 ERA in six starts since then but has walked 11 batters in his last two starts (10.0 ip) after issuing 12 free passes in his first six starts (31.0 ip). Waldichuk has been the starting pitcher in five of the A’s 10 wins. He is 0-1 with a 16.88 ERA in one career start at Houston. A’s pitchers have allowed at least one home run in each of the last 21 games, which is the longest streak in Athletics history.
The Astros counter with young Brandon Bielak (0-1, 3.29). He will be making his 9th career start in what is his 47th career MLB appearance. He has gone 1-4 with a 5.91 ERA (21ER/32IP) as a starter vs. going 5-4 with a 4.56 ERA (36ER/71.0IP) as a reliever. Bielak will make his 5th career appearance against the A’s and 2nd start. He has a 4.66 ERA against them in 8.2 innings.
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