The return of second baseman Jose Altuve from the 10-day injured list Tuesday appeared to move the Houston Astros one step closer to being whole, but yet another malady was lurking.
Shortstop Carlos Correa departed in the sixth inning of the Astros’ 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park after fouling a pitch off his left ankle. Correa appeared in extreme distress and required help exiting the field following the play, but the Astros received a measure of positive news when subsequent tests revealed nothing more severe than a bone bruise.
As for Altuve, he finished 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. The Astros (24-24) are locked in a battle for postseason positioning with just 12 games left in the regular season. Despite his struggles at the plate this season, having Altuve back in the lineup advances the Astros’ cause.
“I think these games are very important as always,” Altuve said. “We are trying to make the playoffs, we are in a good spot and the only thing I want is to contribute with the team and help them win.
“I think we have a lot of confidence. I think we know the kind of players we have and we’ve just got to go game by game and win one game at a time and I think we’ll be fine.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (3-2, 5.79 ERA) gets the start for Houston on Wednesday, his first following a trip to the 10-day injured list with neck nerve irritation. McCullers failed to record an out in his previous start and allowed three runs on two hits and three walks in a 6-5 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 4.
It has been a rocky season for McCullers in his return from Tommy John surgery, a procedure that cost him the 2019 season. He is 1-4 with a 5.61 ERA over seven career starts against the Rangers including a 1-1 record and 4.22 ERA in 2018.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-5, 6.14 ERA) will make his 10th start Wednesday for Texas. He is 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA over his previous five starts, his ERA ballooning from 3.74 to the highest qualifying mark in the majors in that span. Gibson took the loss Thursday against the Angels when he allowed five runs on a season-high 10 hits plus three walks over 5 2/3 innings.
Gibson is 3-2 with a 3.54 ERA over seven career starts against the Astros, including a 1-2 record and 3.05 ERA at Minute Maid Park. He last faced Houston on Sept. 3, 2018, allowing four runs over seven innings in a 4-1 loss with Minnesota.
The Rangers (17-31) took a positive out of the resilient effort of rookie right-hander Kyle Cody, who surrendered the first home run of his career to Astros center fielder George Springer leading off the first inning and pitched around a bases-loaded, no-out pickle in the second.
Cody allowed just the one run on four hits and two walks over three innings of work.
“I don’t want him to struggle but he hadn’t really had much adversity up to this point as a major leaguer,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “So to see that bases-loaded jam or even that homer to start the game, to see if that would snowball a little bit (was noteworthy). But he dialed it back in and got three outs.
“I think it’s a good learning experience for him. He had to grind a bit, which is something he hadn’t had to do in his previous outings.”
–Field Level Media