Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve has a proven track record of decent power.
He slugged 24 home runs in consecutive seasons in 2016-17 before clubbing a career-high 31 in 2019. But Altuve is currently on a power trip that exceeds all expectations.
Altuve bashed his club-leading 16th home run in the Astros’ 10-2 home victory over the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, his eighth homer in his last 10 games. Altuve has just 12 hits total during that span.
Altuve hit a walk-off grand slam against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday and the next night hit his sixth leadoff home run this season, tying his single-season high set in 2016. Suddenly, every swing of the bat yields a new opportunity for Altuve to clear the fences.
“I think every hitter is like that,” Altuve said. “Sometimes we see the ball and we hit it pretty good. Sometimes it’s impossible to hit. I’m not going up there trying to hit a homer. But I’m getting good pitches and hitting the ball pretty hard. I’m just happy we’re winning some games.”
Right-hander Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.98 ERA) will get the start for the Astros on Friday. He had his five-start winning streak snapped against the Minnesota Twins on June 12, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in a 5-4 loss.
Garcia pitched to a 1.86 ERA and a .184 opponent batting average with 33 strikeouts in 29 innings during his winning streak. He will make his first career appearance against the White Sox.
Left-hander Carlos Rodon (6-2, 1.89) is the scheduled starter for the White Sox. He would rank second in the American League in ERA if he had enough innings to qualify, and he’s fifth with 97 strikeouts. He has posted 53 strikeouts and a .208 opponent batting average over his last six starts, covering 35 2/3 innings.
But, since starting the season with victories in each of his first five starts, Rodon is 1-2 with a 3.03 ERA, and Chicago is 3-3 in those six starts. Rodon is 1-0 with a 1.95 ERA over five career starts against the Astros and has compiled a 2.19 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park.
White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) in the loss Thursday, a reversal from a recent stretch of dominance from Chicago pitchers. While the White Sox won eight of 10 games, their starters posted a 2.18 ERA. But, against an Astros lineup missing two-time All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker (13 home runs and 43 RBIs), Cease allowed an average exit velocity of 93.5 mph on 74 pitches.
“They’re obviously a good offensive team,” Cease said, “and if you put them in hitters’ counts, it’s going to be tough.”
Houston has slugged nine home runs in its last two games despite missing the two regulars. The experience of their core continues to serve as the foundation for success, even with attrition.
“They’ve been together several years now and they’ve been tested,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “They’ve played a lot of winning baseball against good pitchers. They’ve got a bunch of guys that are professional hitters. It’s a deep lineup, even without Bregman.”
–Field Level Media