The deficit is now 4.5 games in the AL West for the Oakland Athletics. After a not nice 6-9 loss last night to the Houston Astros, the A’s find themselves in a deeper hole heading into the second game of the series on Wednesday night. A loss means that the A’s cannot gain any ground in the standings as a result of this season. A win means that they could leave town in better shape than when they got there.

Sean Manaea is on the bump for the A’s in this one and Luis Garcia will get the call for the Astros. Manaea will hope to do better than Chris Bassitt and Garcia will attempt to improve upon Framber Valdez’s poor effort yesterday, as the game flew over the total with 12 runs between the two starters.

We’ve got a total of 8.5 for this one with Houston a growing favorite in the -150 range at Bookmaker Sportsbook.

Oakland Athletics

The Athletics fell to 3-8 against the Astros this season with Wednesday’s loss. It was a particularly tough one to take. The A’s staked starter Chris Bassitt with a 3-0 lead after the first inning, but he gave back two runs. Bassitt then got three more runs worth of support in the second inning, but Oakland would not score again and the game was tied by the bottom of the fifth.

The Houston bullpen put up four shutout innings. The A’s bullpen did not. As a result, Houston won the first game of the series and pushed the lead out to 4.5 games. The A’s are still very much in the Wild Card discussion irrespective of what happens with the AL West race, but they still don’t want to keep falling further behind by losing these head-to-head meetings.

The Oakland offense did enough with six runs and went 6-for-16 with RISP in the first game of the series, but the pitching faltered on Tuesday. Oakland’s offense only ranks 14th in wOBA, but does have a 102 wRC+, as the challenging park factor of Oakland Coliseum and the park factors of some of the road venues are taken into account with wRC+, but not wOBA.

This is a really big start for Sean Manaea. The 29-year-old southpaw has a strong 3.13 ERA with a 3.20 FIP in his 17 starts across 97.2 innings of work. He is making his fourth start of the season against the Astros with nine runs allowed on 22 hits in 16.2 innings to this point. Manaea allowed four runs on nine hits last time out against the lowly Rangers. He’ll need to be better tonight.

Houston Astros

It may be tough for Manaea to be better tonight because the Houston Astros have the best offense in baseball and also the best offense in baseball against left-handed pitchers. Houston has a .344 wOBA, which is seven points higher than any other team. The 122 wRC+ is 11 points higher than any other team. The Astros have seen some increase to their K% of late, but are still the only team under 21% for the year.

All of that contact has yielded a lot of positive outcomes for the Astros, who have only struck out 18.6% of the time, yet still have a BB% of 9.8%. They hit for power, they lead the league in average, and they put a ton of balls in play. In terms of numbers against lefties, the Astros are first in batting average by 14 points and first in wOBA by eight points over the White Sox.

So, yeah, good luck Mr. Manaea.

Luis Garcia gets the call for the Astros on the mound in this one. Garcia is having an excellent season for a Houston rotation that ranks ninth in fWAR on the season at 7.8. Garcia has 1.6 of those fWAR with a 3.14 ERA and a 3.50 FIP in his 14 starts and two relief efforts. He has 90 strikeouts against 27 walks. He’ll make just his second start against the A’s this season.

Garcia has only allowed 13 runs in his 45.1 innings at home this season with a .265 wOBA against. He’s been decidedly better at home than on the road this season, but he’s been reliably good just about everywhere he has pitched.

A’s vs. Astros Free Pick

The Astros are taking money in the betting markets and have grown into a bigger favorite for this game and it makes complete sense. They own lefties and easily have the better offense between the two teams. Luis Garcia and Sean Manaea have pretty similar stats for the season, but Garcia seems to have the better matchup.

The Astros it is tonight.

Pick: Houston Astros