Attrition has struck the Houston Astros again, but thus far the results haven’t changed.
The Astros improved to 15-4 over their last 19 games with their 7-3 home victory over the Chicago White Sox on Saturday, a triumph that put them on the brink of sweeping their current six-game homestand. Houston will host Chicago again Sunday afternoon.
The Astros continue to roll without a pair of lineup staples in third baseman Alex Bregman and right fielder Kyle Tucker along with their top utilityman in Aledmys Diaz.
Astros manager Dusty Baker has been challenged to dig deeply into his bench to plug the gaps, with Chas McCormick and Abraham Toro contributing to victories during the current win streak. Against the White Sox on Saturday, reserve infielder Robel Garcia delivered a critical three-run double that capped a four-run third inning against White Sox right-hander Lance Lynn.
“We miss having him on the team,” Garcia said of Bregman. “We have some really good players and we’ve been able to pick up the slack and still play well.”
Said Baker of Garcia: “I thought he had the best chance of succeeding. It doesn’t always work but it did.
“It’s huge, and you really feel part of the team when you get to play and then you have success, especially to help us win. We’re going to have to depend on them because we don’t have Bregman.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.89 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros Sunday. He returned from the 10-day injured list and worked 4 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks with three strikeouts in the Astros’ 6-3 victory.
McCullers is 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six starts. In four career starts against the White Sox, McCullers is 2-1 with a 2.22 ERA.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (6-1, 3.78) will start the series finale for the White Sox on Sunday against his former team. He is 5-0 with a 3.21 ERA over his last eight starts and has allowed just three earned runs over 19 innings and three starts this month.
Keuchel will make his first appearance against the Astros and first start at Minute Maid Park after pitching seven seasons with Houston from 2012-18. He went 76-63 with a 3.66 ERA with the Astros, winning the 2015 American League Cy Young Award and a World Series in 2017. He was a seventh-round pick of Houston in 2009.
The White Sox have dropped the first three games of the series for their first three-game skid since being swept on the road by the New York Yankees May 21-23. The White Sox had won four consecutive series and rolled into Houston as one of the hottest teams in the majors.
In the finale on Sunday, their foremost challenge is to avoid a series sweep and reclaim the edge that had the White Sox looking formidable before this showdown with the Astros.
“They’re not playing any harder than we are, they’re just playing better,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “I like the way we hung in there. We’re capable of turning it around.”
–Field Level Media