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Astros look to give Justin Verlander run support vs. Twins

Aug 16, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Taken without context, the Houston Astros totaling 40 runs during a seven-game road trip that concluded with a 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday would represent a positive development for an offense that has struggled with consistency.

A deeper look reveals the Astros scored more than half of those runs in a 21-5 win on Thursday in Chicago after enduring two late-inning collapses to the White Sox and before taking a walk-off loss against the Braves on Saturday.

Houston will open a six-game homestand on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins having dropped four games on the road trip, three in frustrating fashion.

“We’ve got to do a better job of doing that more consistently and doing that every single day,” said Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker, who has slashed .390/.419/.661 with 17 RBIs while boosting his batting average 22 points during his current 14-game hitting streak. “But I’m pretty happy with how things went this road trip and we’re going to try and continue that at home.”

Justin Verlander (15-3, 1.95 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener for the Astros on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old right-hander is tied for the major league lead in wins, and he tops the majors in ERA. After going seven consecutive appearances allowing one earned run or none and winning each of those starts, Verlander is winless in his past two starts, having yielded six runs on 13 hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts over 13 innings.

Verlander is 21-10 with a 2.82 ERA in 39 career starts against the Twins. He twirled eight shutout innings in a 5-0 road win on May 10, allowing one hit and two walks while striking out five.

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (3-3, 7.68 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Twins. It will mark his second appearance with Minnesota following a start on Aug. 1, during which he allowed two runs on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over five innings in the Twins’ 5-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.

He subsequently was designated for assignment and later accepted an assignment to the minors. He will be promoted from Triple-A Saint Paul on Tuesday.

Sanchez opened the season with the Washington Nationals before being released on May 31. He signed with Minnesota on June 6.

Sanchez is 3-2 with a 6.20 ERA in seven career appearances (four starts) against the Astros, for whom he logged six innings of a combined no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 3, 2019.

The Twins dropped the finale of their seven-game homestand and four-game series with the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Monday to conclude the homestand at 4-3. Of greater significance was the loss of center fielder Byron Buxton, who departed in the top of the seventh inning after aggravating an ongoing hip issue. Buxton finished 1-for-2 with a walk and his sixth stolen base.

A first-time All-Star this season, Buxton leads the Twins with a career-high 28 home runs in addition to a .526 slugging percentage despite dealing with a litany of health issues. He has missed 28 games this season but has yet to land on the injured list.

Buxton underwent an MRI exam on Monday to determine the extent of his ailment, and he appears doubtful to play on Tuesday.

“Over the last few days, he’s been in a spot where he’s been on the verge of not being able to go out there, not being able to swing or run or do such things, but he’s continued to go out there and play,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t know what percentage he’s at, but he’s not at a high percentage of being able to do what he normally can do, but he wants to play.”

–Field Level Media