Astros aim for sweep against Rays

MLB Baseball

Looking for a three-game sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Houston Astros will turn to their hottest starting pitcher – Cristian Javier.

Houston will visit Tampa Bay in a Sunday afternoon series finale after beating the Rays 9-2 on Friday and 3-1 on Saturday.

In a weekend dominated by fantastic Astros starting pitching, the right-handed Javier (3-0, 0.87 ERA) will have a lofty standard to meet in the finale.

Javier enters Sunday’s matinee meeting on a 17-inning scoreless streak over three starts.

In the three home outings, he threw a pair of five-inning stints and followed that with seven more innings against Seattle on Tuesday – all resulting in wins for the Dominican pitcher.

In 20 2/3 innings pitched, Javier has yielded just two runs on 11 hits. He has struck out 26 and walked six while holding an impressive 0.82 WHIP.

Tuesday’s 2-0 win over the Mariners was satisfying to Houston manager Dusty Baker, whose team is playing every day for almost two straight weeks.

“He gave us what we wanted,” said Baker. “He gave us seven innings. … This is what we needed, especially during a stretch of 13 consecutive games (without a day off).”

Javier, 24, has never faced the Rays in the regular season but did pitch in relief against them twice in the American League Championship Series last October – tossing three innings and allowing three runs on two hits without a decision in either appearance.

On Friday, the Rays announced that prized prospect Wander Franco would open at Triple-A affiliate Durham next week, an aggressive promotion that prompted immediate speculation of a summer arrival for the highly touted shortstop.

The No. 1 overall prospect in the minors according to MLB Pipeline, the talented Franco – who just turned 20 last month — hit .339 in 52 games for High-A affiliate Charlotte in the former Florida State League in 2019.

Much of the discussion over Franco’s potential arrival in Tampa stems from the struggles of Willy Adames – a fellow Dominican shortstop and the Rays’ regular starter.

The 25-year-old Adames went 1-for-3 Saturday but is hitting just .174.

Rays manager Kevin Cash said Adames is suffering from bad numbers, not poor performance.

“When you’re in a funk, you want to have that reward for squaring a ball up,” said Cash, “and he has squared plenty of balls up and he’s got nothing to show for it.”

In his final at-bat in the seventh, Adames drove a deep fly that was caught on the warning track in right field, a few feet shy of a two-run homer.

“We could argue that, on a given day or a different ballpark or a little bit of wind, he’s sitting on seven, eight home runs in the last 10 games,” Cash said.

Just activated from the COVID-19 injured list, Rich Hill (1-1, 7.25) will make his seventh start and 11th overall appearance in his career against the Astros.

The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.68 ERA in 40 1/3 innings — allowing only 23 hits — against Houston.

–Field Level Media

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