The Houston Astros will try to gain breathing room in the American League West race when they visit the reeling Kansas City Royals Monday.
The Astros lead the second-place Oakland Athletics by 2 1/2 games in the AL West.
The A’s won 12 of 15 games before falling 7-4 to the Texas Rangers Sunday. The Astros, who fell to the Los Angeles Angels 3-1 Sunday, are just 6-7 in their last 13.
Astros manager Dusty Baker has been aware of the A’s charge.
“I look at the standings every day from the first game of the season,” he said Sunday. “I look at the scoreboard every day.”
The Royals have lost four in a row and 11 of their last 15 games heading into this four-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
“We didn’t get a lot of pitches to hit, we’ve seen that a couple days in a row,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after his team fell 7-2 to the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday. “(We’re) not capitalizing on the very few opportunities that we do have.”
Jake Odorizzi (5-6, 4.59 ERA) will start for the Astros. He scattered three hits over five innings while beating the Colorado Rockies 5-0 in his last start.
“Still some work to be done, for sure, just to refine things, keep things going, get it closer to where I want it,” Odorizzi said. “Definitely the way the last couple of starts have been, I was much more pleased with the mechanical aspect of it. It kind of trickles down, and it shows.”
In the four starts prior to that, Odorizzi allowed 16 earned runs on 21 hits and nine walks in 16 1/3 innings.
Odorizzi is 3-6 with a 5.37 ERA in 14 career appearances (13 starts) against the Royals. Whit Merrifield (9-for-21, two doubles, three homers, five RBIs), Nicky Lopez (5-for-10), Andrew Benintendi (4-for-12, RBI) and Salvador Perez (7-for-23, double, homer, two RBIs) have hit him well.
The Royals will give rookie Carlos Hernandez (3-1, 4.11) his first career look at the Astros. Since his June 9 recall from Triple-A Omaha, he has posted a 3.29 ERA in 13 appearances, including five starts, while holding opponents to a .210 batting average.
Hernandez is 2-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last three starts. He held the New York Yankees to one run on five hits in 6 2/3 innings in his last outing.
“He was aggressive, attacking the zone to where he could have a chance to be efficient and be able to stay in the game,” Matheny said. “And man, he was really good. Everything was working.”
The Astros remain without hot-hitting outfielder Kyle Tucker, who is sidelined due to health and safety protocols. “It won’t be any time in the next week,” Baker said.
Jake Meyers replaced him Saturday and hit two homers. But he went 1-for-4 Sunday with three strikeouts.
Jose Altuve went hitless in five at bats Sunday and 1-for-13 in the Angels series. He is batting just .191 in August.
“He has to just keep on swinging,” Baker said. “It seems like when you’re not going good, every time you look up you have two strikes on you. Even before you go up to the plate, that’s when you’re in a bad streak. But if anybody knows how to come out of it, it’s Jose.”
–Field Level Media