Halfway through their latest attempt at utilizing a six-man rotation, the Houston Astros aren’t quite getting the results they’d longed for.

The Astros hope ace Justin Verlander can end their string of bumpy starts on Thursday in the finale of a four-game series against the visiting Kansas City Royals.

Prior to veteran Jake Odorizzi rejoining the rotation on Monday following a 48-day stint on the injured list, the Astros enjoyed an exceptional run of starting pitching that included allowing one run or none in eight of the previous nine games.

Subsequently, Odorizzi, Luis Garcia, and Cristian Javier, the pitcher of record in the Astros’ 7-4 loss to the Royals on Wednesday, each allowed five runs. That trio of right-handers worked a combined 15 1/3 innings and surrendered 21 hits and five walks.

Three starters remain before the Astros complete one trip through their extended order.

“We’ll see how this works,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “And if it doesn’t work after a couple turns through or a turn and a half through, then we’ll make adjustments accordingly.”

Rotation woes aside, it’s not as if the Astros are struggling overall. The Wednesday setback ended Houston’s eight-game winning streak and was just the Astros’ fourth defeat in 20 games.

Verlander (10-3, 2.03 ERA) will attempt to pitch the Astros to a series victory on Thursday. He logged eight scoreless innings in his previous start, limiting the New York Mets to two hits and one walk with six strikeouts in a 2-0 victory on June 29.

The 39-year-old veteran is 4-1 with a 1.65 ERA and opponent OPS of .501 over his last five starts and 32 2/3 innings.

Verlander is 23-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 45 career starts against the Royals. He has more wins vs. Kansas City than vs. any other club.

Kris Bubic (1-5, 7.06 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Royals, who hope to split the series.

The 24-year-old left-hander did not factor into the decision of the Royals’ 4-3 road loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, when he allowed two runs on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. It marked the second time in his past three outings that he allowed two or fewer runs.

Bubic is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA over the six starts following his lone relief appearance this season, May 11 at Texas.

In his only career appearance against the Astros, Bubic did not factor into the decision during the Royals’ 6-0 win over the Astros on June 4. He gave up five hits and three walks and recorded three strikeouts over five scoreless innings. The outing was his only scoreless start of the season and just the third of his career.

After blowing a five-run lead in the series opener and a pair of two-run leads on Tuesday, the Royals made an early four-run edge stand on Wednesday thanks in part to the production of Andrew Benintendi. The left fielder reached base four times and scored three runs on his 28th birthday.

Benintendi knocked in an insurance run with a ninth-inning double, then scored on a single by MJ Melendez.

“Adding on against a team like (Houston) is even bigger, putting that much more pressure on in the bottom of the ninth,” Benintendi said. “Glad that we could win. That’s the biggest thing.”

–Field Level Media