Houston has yet to be swept so far this season. It happened thrice in 2017 and one of the times came at home, at Minute Maid Park against the Cleveland Indians in April.
The Astros are staring down their first sweep of the season and the first one at Minute Maid Park since then, having lost the first two games in this weekend’s series to the last place Rangers.
Houston will go up against Mike Minor for the fifth time this season. Minor has fought the ‘Stros tooth and nail in the four prior dealings and though his team has come out on the losing end in three of the four, two of the three defeats were by one run and Minor pitched well in both (six innings and three runs allowed in each).
The former Vanderbilt star and first round pick in 2009 has maintained a respectable WHIP (1.21 currently) in his first season back as a starting pitcher. That decision was criticized by the outsiders after Minor made an admirable comeback from a torn labrum and other injuries to produce well out of Kansas City’s bullpen in 2017.
His ERA near 5.00 suggests that he may be staying in games too long, or simply that the home run hurts him. The latter is certainly true, looking at the numbers. Minor has given up 18 home runs and it’s no secret why his best run came in June, when he gave up just one homer in four starts.
You’re thinking about the Astros at Minute Maid Park and wondering why then, I’m looking to get behind Minor this afternoon, a team with such right-handed power in an extremely hitter-friendly park.
Well neither Carlos Correa, nor Jose Altuve will play today. Correa recently suffered a setback rehabbing his lower back and Jose Altuve was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career after yesterday’s game with a sore knee.
Minor still has to contend with George Springer, and Alex Bregman, and Yuli Gurriel. The Astros might also rally, facing a sweep and injected with motivation after the Altuve news. Or they also might get even more down than they have been and struggle through another nine innings against Texas’ pitching staff, which has given up three runs in the first two games of this series.
What I believe to be more likely is that Lance McCullers Jr. steps up in Altuve’s absence and the offense strikes late in an Astros win. Minor will contain Houston in the early going and keep it under in the first half of the game.