The Houston Astros capped a 6-3 road trip with a decisive victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, seemingly confirming their status as one of the best clubs in the majors.
The Astros, set to open a two-game home series against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, won series against the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota and have claimed 10 of 14 games overall.
The Astros’ plus-86 run differential was second in the American League to only to the Chicago White Sox’s plus-106 through the weekend.
After laboring through a string of injuries to their pitching staff, Houston appears to be rounding into title-contending form, a familiar refrain for a core that has qualified for the postseason in five of the past six seasons.
“I believe in this team,” Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. “I got a really good feeling about this team. Everybody’s on the same page. The vibes in the clubhouse remind me of ’17 and ’19, (years when Houston got to the World Series). I really love this team.”
Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will be reinstated from the 10-day injured list to make his first start since May 22 on Tuesday. His last two starts prior to landing on the IL with shoulder discomfort came against the Rangers, with McCullers allowing three runs on 11 hits and six walks with 12 strikeouts over 11 innings while failing to earn a decision in either appearance.
McCullers is 1-4 with a 3.88 ERA over 11 career starts against the Rangers.
The Astros announced over the weekend that McCullers and right-hander Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 6.75 ERA) will work in tandem against Texas before the club shifts to a six-man rotation. Odorizzi will start the following Monday against the Baltimore Orioles.
Following the series opener against Texas, the Astros won’t have another scheduled off day until July 5.
Right-hander Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will start the opener for the Rangers on Tuesday. He has just one decision, a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on June 4, over his past six starts despite pitching to a 2.11 ERA.
In consecutive starts against the Astros last month, Gibson allowed just three runs on eight hits and four walks with seven strikeouts over 13 innings, surrendering a .170 batting average yet notching a pair of no-decisions.
Gibson is 4-2 with a 2.49 ERA over 11 career starts against the Astros, 2-2 with a 2.21 ERA in five starts in Houston.
Since sweeping the Astros in a three-game set May 21-23, a series that included two walk-off, 10-inning wins, the Rangers are 3-14 and have fallen deep into the American League West cellar. Texas dropped a 5-3 decision to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday and is 0-5-1 over its past six series.
An inability to capitalize on early opportunities against Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler proved critical for the Rangers in the series finale, with Buehler finding stability following a rocky first inning en route to the victory.
The Rangers managed early success en route to their 12-1 victory in the middle game of the series, and for an offense that has labored mustering consistent pressure on opposing pitchers, a fast start might be needed to generate momentum.
“A lot of times you strike first, the whole game changes,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “If we would have had a big hit or broken through in the first couple of innings, obviously the game would have been a lot different.”
–Field Level Media