Before the Minnesota Twins start a second rookie right-hander in as many games on Friday night, Griffin Jax took the mound for them Thursday in the opener of a four-game set against the Houston Astros.
Jax, making just his fourth career start, proved up to the task, limiting the Astros to one run on three hits and one walk while logging a career-best 5 1/3 innings in the Twins’ 5-3 victory. Jax has allowed three earned runs over his past three starts combined and appears to be settling into his role and the opportunity to earn a spot in the rotation for the 2022 season.
“I think a lot of it is just comfort and getting used to the day-in and day-out grind of major-league baseball,” Jax said. “I take it as a big challenge going out there knowing I’m going to face the best of the best. It just builds my confidence knowing I can do it.”
Bailey Ober (1-1, 4.94 ERA) hopes to follow suit on Friday when he gets the start for the Twins.
Ober didn’t factor into the decision in his last start, allowing one run on four hits and one walk with six strikeouts over four innings in the Twins’ 8-1 win at the St. Louis Cardinals on July 31.
He will make his second career start against Houston, with the first coming at home on June 11. Ober yielded two runs on seven hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in five innings in a 6-4 loss. He did not factor into that decision.
Right-hander Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.65) is the scheduled starter for the Astros in the second contest of this four-game series.
Greinke did not factor into the decision of his previous start despite allowing a season-high-tying six runs on eight hits, including four home runs, and two walks with four strikeouts over four innings in the Astros’ 8-6 road loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Greinke leads the club in quality starts, and the Astros are 11-0 in those outings. He is 5-9 with a 4.64 ERA over 24 career appearances (20 starts) against the Twins.
The Astros appeared to be dragging early against Jax, perhaps a byproduct of their late arrival from Los Angeles early Thursday. The Astros landed in Houston just before dawn and were slowed en route to Minute Maid Park by an accident between the airport and their destination.
“It was real tough,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You would think that the league wouldn’t let that happen. The scheduling didn’t do us any favors. It took us awhile to wake up. That’s part of the perils of being a pro. You can’t make any excuses even though you have them.”
Astros center fielder Chas McCormick said the club didn’t arrive at the ballpark until 7 a.m., and that he finally went to sleep roughly 90 minutes later. After mustering just one hit off Jax through five innings, the Astros got homers from Jason Castro and Yordan Alvarez and had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning before their rally ultimately fell short.
“It’s momentum,” McCormick said of the late-game rally. “We can carry that into (Friday). We did start to put together better at-bats at the end of the game. We saw a couple bullpen arms, and that should help us the rest of the series.”
–Field Level Media