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July 17, 2012

What You Need to Know

Tuesday, July 17

by Daniel Rathman

The Monday Takeaway
On June 13, the Astros were on the wrong end of a perfect game by Matt Cain. On June 14, they won a game on the road. The way the 2012 season had gone for Brad Mills’ team, that little victory nearly erased the previous day’s frustrations.

At the time, the Astros were just 8-22 away from Minute Maid Park, and their 6-3 win over the Giants in that series finale did virtually nothing to stem the tide. They traveled from San Francisco to Arlington and were promptly swept by their cross-state rivals, losing those three contests by a combined score of 23-8. And the woes did not end there, as Houston dropped its next 10 away games, too, falling to 9-35 on the road.

The team with the league’s worst overall record had somehow managed to produce a 24-21 mark on its home field, while winning only 20.5 percent of its away games. The Astros had been outscored 245-154 on the road, and they had produced only one shutout victory, which came back on May 11 at PNC Park.

Finally, last night—a month and two days after their most recent road win, and two months and five days after their most recent road shutout—the Astros beat the Padres, 2-0, at Petco Park to snap their 13-game skid. They went 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left 13 men on base, all against Kip Wells and the Padres’ bullpen, but when you are a loss away from tying a dubious franchise record, a win is a win.

Tonight, the Astros will try to win consecutive away games for the first time since April 25-27 in Milwaukee and Cincinnati, and to set themselves up with a chance to win a road series for the first time since June 8-10 in Chicago. Jordan Lyles will be on the mound for Houston, while San Diego will counter with Ross Ohlendorf, who has a 7.41 ERA in 17 innings of work this year.

What to Watch for on Tuesday

  • The Mets traveled to Atlanta after the All-Star break with a chance to move back ahead of the second-place Braves in the National League East, but getting swept put a serious dent in those plans. Terry Collins’ team now trails Atlanta by 3 ½ games and first-place Washington by 6 ½, but a second chance is in the offing, with a series in the nation's capital beginning tonight. Leadoff man Ruben Tejada is 16-for-41 (.390 average) so far this month, and the Mets will need him to stay hot as they try to get back on track (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • Left-hander Zach Britton began the season on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement, but after making 10 minor-league starts, he has been deemed ready to rejoin the Orioles’ rotation. The 24-year-old Britton logged a 3.47 ERA in the minors this year, compiling a 41-to-19 K/BB and rolling plenty of ground balls. He will face off with Samuel Deduno in the second game of a four-game set at Target Field (8:10 p.m. ET).
  • After sweeping the Twins in Minnesota over the weekend, the A’s have now wrapped an 8-1 stretch around the All-Star break, and they are heading back to Oakland for what figures to be a pivotal homestand. Bob Melvin’s team kicks off a three-game series with the Rangers tonight, before welcoming the Yankees to town for a four-game series on Thursday, and its performance over the next seven games will determine whether general manager Billy Beane buys or sells at the trade deadline. The A’s will need Yoenis Cespedes, the reigning American League Player of the Week who went 8-for-13 with two homers versus the Twins, to lead the way (10:10 p.m. ET).
  • As the Phillies decide what to do with Cole Hamels, at least for one night, all eyes will be on a different starting pitcher. Roy Halladay, who has been out since May 27 with a lat strain, returns to the mound to take on the Dodgers, who finally have a healthy outfield. That could prove salient tonight, because Andre Ethier—a league-best 7-for-10 with a home run in their past meetings—is one of the few people on this earth who can claim to have ownage on Halladay (10:10 p.m. ET).

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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