The Houston Astros have played so well for such an extended stretch that even a run of ragged performances didn’t undermine the goal of claiming series victories.
Already down a pair of crucial offensive contributors in Yordan Alvarez (hand injury) and Michael Brantley (shoulder), the Astros lost All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve in the finale of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels that they claimed 3-2 on Thursday.
Houston capped a six-game trip with a 4-2 record and has won five consecutive series heading into a three-game home set against the Oakland Athletics starting Friday night that will close the first half of the season.
Astros manager Dusty Baker said he intended to give Altuve the day off on Friday before Altuve was hit by a pitch on the left knee. Altuve initially remained in the game and scored the first run for Houston before being lifted for Mauricio Dubon.
The Astros struggled through bouts of uneven play during their road trip yet improved to 28 games over .500 with the win over the Angels, matching their high-water mark for the season.
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-2, 3.38 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in the series opener. He threw seven scoreless innings against Oakland in his second start since his reinstatement from the injured list, allowing four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in a 6-1 victory on July 10.
Odorizzi was saddled for five runs on nine hits and one walk over four innings against the Kansas City Royals on July 4, his first appearance following a 42-game stint on the injured list with a tendon strain in his lower leg. He is 4-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last six starts.
Odorizzi is 2-4 with a 3.58 ERA over 11 career starts against the Athletics. His previous start was his first against Oakland this season.
Left-hander Cole Irvin (3-7, 3.32) has the starting assignment for the Athletics on Friday. He suffered the loss in his previous start on July 10, allowing two runs on five hits with two strikeouts over six innings in a 6-1 home setback to the Astros.
Irvin earned the win in his start before facing Houston, snapping a stretch of nine consecutive winless outings during which he went 0-5 with a 3.69 ERA and .737 opponent OPS. The Athletics lost all nine of those games.
Irvin is 0-4 with a 5.57 ERA over six career starts against the Astros, including an 0-1 mark and 2.31 ERA in two starts this season with 11 hits, three runs and two walks allowed in 11 2/3 innings.
Oakland right-hander Paul Blackburn pitched the finale of the Athletics’ three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday and will be unavailable against the Astros this weekend.
Blackburn, named to the All-Star team for the first time, would be amply rested should he get the opportunity to pitch for the American League on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
“From my end, I want those guys that are All-Stars to have an opportunity,” Athletics manager Mark Kotsay said. “We’re hopeful that Pauly gets an opportunity and gets to pitch in that game.”
–Field Level Media