Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
What do the four pitchers who sit on top of the American League leaderboard in strikeouts have in common?
The Houston Astros. They've all faced the AL West's newest team this season.
Oakland Athletics right-hander Dan Straily was the latest starter to baffle Houston, following Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers.
Straily fanned a career-high 11 batters in 6 1/3 innings Friday night. Darvish, Ogando and Straily have combined to post a 35/1 K/BB over 20 2/3 innings against the Astros.
And while Matt Harrison walked three and allowed five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against them on Opening Night, he also struck out nine.
All four pitchers either tied or set a career high in strikeouts.
This is great news for fantasy owners who invested in AL West pitchers.
The Rangers have 16 games remaining against Houston, and the A's have 18. The Mariners and Angels have 19 apiece.
Last year, those four teams played each other 19 times each, so nothing has changed there, but they have replaced 19 games against other major league teams with 19 against the worst team in baseball.
That could mean three or four starts against the Astros for every starter in the rotation instead of versus better hitting clubs.
Likewise, the five remaining NL Central teams played the Astros either 15 or 17 times last season. They won't have all those games this year, although the schedule makers threw each team a consolatory interleague series against the Astros this season (two two-game sets for the Cardinals).
Bartolo Colon will return from his PED suspension Saturday to start against Houston, and the former Cy Young Award winner will serve as a good litmus test of just how low the Astros can go. Colon had the highest contact rate in baseball last season at 90.1 percent, and he threw his fastball 89.2 percent of the time, per FanGraphs. If the Astros can't at least put the bat on the ball against Colon, they have no shot this season.
For fantasy owners who like to stream, keep an eye on the back end of the rotations of Oakland, Texas, Los Angeles and Seattle for upcoming starts against Houston.
The Astros just might make Blake Beavan relevant in fantasy leagues.
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