Astros-Royals Weekend Series Preview

JIM SEZ: ASTROS ADD SCOTT KAZMIR JUST IN TIME FOR HUGE AL SERIES VS. ROYALS THIS WEEKEND

So much for building for the future! The Houston Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A's just in time for their huge series this weekend with AL Central leading Kansas City. Kazmir will be a free agent at the end of the season. So, the move seems very much focused on the Astros staying trying to win a title THIS year as their youngsters have matured quicker than expected.

As of publication time, it's not clear if and when Kazmir will throw for the Astros this weekend. We'll post his stat line first...and then run through the numbers for what had been the initial sequence of "probable starters." You can tweak as things get firmed up.

Scott Kazmir: 2.38 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.3 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start

Great numbers except for a relative disappointment in regards to lasting deep into games. Every so often his control gets away from him...and it prevents him from dominating as long as possible. He immediately upgrades the Houston rotation. If he goes this weekend, he'll be better than any of the Astros options outside of the dynamic Dallas Keuchel (originally penciled in for Saturday night).

Okay...let's run THE REST of JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats as we get you ready for this showcase series...

OFFENSE
Houston: 4.44 runs per game, .309 on-base, .423 slugging
Kansas City: 4.41 runs per game, .326 on-base, .413 slugging

Virtually identical per-game marks. Houston has more power in the numbers...but that's greatly helped by playing home games in a bandbox. Kansas City gets more guys on base...which helps them score anywhere. Probably a slight edge to the Royals when all the park-adjusted stuff comes out in the wash. Both teams can hit vulnerable pitching...and will get a chance to this weekend.

FRIDAY'S PITCHERS
Scott Feldman: 4.93 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 5.3 K-Rate, 6.0 IP-per-Start
Jeremy Guthrie: 5.36 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 4.7 K-Rate, 5.6 IP-per-Start

Feldman has knocked more than a run off his ERA over the last two months. But, that just tells you how bad things were before! If he throws a quality start, it's generally of the 6 inning/3 earned run variety, which is still an ERA of 4.50. Amazingly, those ugly stats still outperform what Guthrie's been doing this year! We've talked about him a few times because so many big-series previews involve the Royals this year. Guthrie's ERA is 4.12 over his last nine starts...so he's trending in the right direction. Worth considering the Over if this projected pitching matchup holds. Kazmir would obviously have a clear edge over Guthrie..

SATURDAY'S PITCHERS
Dallas Keuchel: 2.12 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.3 K-Rate, 7.2 IP-per-Start
Danny Duffy: 4.24 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate, 5.4 IP-per-Start

Keuchel is still having a Cy Young caliber season. His 12-4 record gives him a shot at 20 wins if he can keep getting run support. Imagine the hype about this guy from ESPN if he was pitching for the Yankees or the Red Sox! Duffy has just thrown three gems to knock more than a run off his full season ERA. So, he's in better form right now than those stats would suggest...which means he has a chance to compete in an Under game. Very few pitchers this season are clearing 7.0 innings per start. Great stuff from Keuchel.

SUNDAY'S PITCHERS
Vincent Velasquez: 4.03 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 9.0 K-Rate, 5.4 IP-per-Start
Yordano Ventura: 5.19 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.7 K-Rate, 5.5 IP-per-Start

Velasquez only has seven starts this season. His last four have been solid with at least six innings per and a good strikeout rate. He's still hittable...but trending in the right direction as he gets his bearings. Ventura was just sent to the minors because his ERA jumped more than a run over four starts. An injury to Jason Vargas brought Ventura back into the rotation. He'd better get things figured out quick or the Royals will have to sweat the latter stages of the season more than anticipated. Edge to Houston, particularly if rotation tweaking puts Kazmir or Keuchel in this spot rather than Velasquez.

Sometimes the schedule throws curveballs at handicappers. JIM HURLEY could always hit the curve! You can purchase his BIG-GAME BLOWOUTS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service for baseball or Fall Football, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back to college football this weekend in the NOTEBOOK as our summer series of conference previews continues. Please check the archives if you missed the Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt, and Big 10 previews. This weekend we'll look at the SEC...who's dying to get the trophy back in their hands after watching Ohio State celebrate last season. Here's the coming NOTEBOOK schedule...

Saturday: College Football Preview...SEC "East"
Sunday: College Football Preview...SEC "West"
Monday: MLB Series Preview...Detroit at Tampa Bay
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview...LA Angels at Houston
Wednesday: MLB Big Game Preview...NY Yankees at Texas
Thursday: College Football Preview...American Athletic Conference
Friday: College Football Preview...the Independents
Saturday August 1: College Football Preview...ACC Atlantic
Sunday August 2: College Football Preview...ACC Coastal

Note that we'll have some mid-week football coming up Thursday as we try to squeeze in all of our college football conference previews before the NFL Preseason starts. Our pro divisional previews will run concurrently with early action in NFLX. This is all great news if you're a football fan. The summer is flying by!

For now...big games this weekend in the bases...and BIG WINNERS from the BIGGEST NAME IN SPORTS HANDICAPPING! Go get your BIG, JUICY WINNERS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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