Behind Luis Garcia, Astros look to slow Angels

After leading the American League in batting and on-base percentage while ranking second in OPS in 2021, the Houston Astros entered this season facing the scrutiny of replacing All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa after he signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Twins.

One nine-game trip later, the Astros will look the part of a team not quite in sync. Houston dropped a 7-2 decision Sunday in the rubber match against the Seattle Mariners, marking the sixth time in nine games the Astros scored three or fewer runs.

Houston was without slugging designated hitter Yordan Alvarez (health and safety protocol) for five games while its remaining regulars have yet to get on track offensively. The Astros closed the trip with a winning record, but their stagnant offense was a topic of discussion nonetheless.

After scoring 13 runs in their second game of the season, the Astros totaled just 15 runs over the final seven games of their swing through Anaheim, Phoenix and Seattle.

“Obviously we would all love to get off to a fast start,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “It’s a long season, and that’s why you play 162 games. I’m confident this team will be very, very, very good offensively this season.

“Give it time.”

The Astros will join the Oakland Athletics as the last teams in the majors to host a game when they have their home opener against the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.

Returning home won’t solve all that is ailing the Astros offensively, but it’s a good place to start.

“It seems like it’s been a long road trip,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Seems like it’s been a road trip since spring training. Now we can go home and regroup.”

Right-hander Luis Garcia (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will start the home opener for the Astros. He finished second in AL Rookie of the Year balloting last season after going 11-8 with a 3.48 ERA over 30 games (28 starts). He is 1-2 with a 3.82 ERA in seven career games (five starts) against the Angels.

He worked four scoreless innings while allowing two hits and two walks with one strikeout in his season debut as Houston topped the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-1 on April 12.

Right-hander Michael Lorenzen (1-0, 1.50 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Angels. He went 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA and four saves last season with the Cincinnati Reds and has made two scoreless relief appearances against Houston in his career.

Lorenzen allowed one run on two hits with seven strikeouts over six innings in his Angels debut, a 6-2 win over the Miami Marlins on April 11.

The Angels got a scare Sunday in their 8-3 win over the Texas Rangers, their fifth victory in six games, when center fielder Mike Trout departed after being hit by a pitch on the left hand in the fifth inning. X-rays were negative, and Trout was diagnosed with a contusion. He is considered day to day and likely will sit on Monday.

“When I went out there you could see immediately he was in more pain than you would think just by looking at it,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “And then I decided let’s just get it looked at, get some ice on it, and get you back sooner. That’s exactly what I was talking to him about.”

–Field Level Media