The Houston Astros haven’t been at their best on offense of late, but they’ve been good enough to win.
They will shoot for a sweep against the host Oakland Athletics on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of three-game series.
The Astros will send right-hander Justin Verlander (6-2, 2.03 ERA) to the mound while the A’s will counter with left-hander Cole Irvin (2-2, 3.15).
Houston got a tiebreaking home run from Chas McCormick in the eighth inning of a 3-1 win on Tuesday. McCormick, who was just 8-for-60 (.133) in May entering the night, went 3-for-4 and racked up two RBIs as the Astros won their third straight game.
Yordan Alvarez added two hits for Houston, which was outhit 8-7 by the Athletics. Houston got five shutout innings from its relief corps, including a perfect eighth inning from Hector Neris and the ninth save of the season from closer Ryan Pressly.
Houston was 11-10 and tied for second place in the American League West when May started. The Astros went 21-8 last month and now sit in first place with a five-game lead.
Astros manager Dusty Baker is relatively happy with where his team sits after 50 games.
“You know we got 100-something to go,” Baker said. “May was really good to us. You know we won a lot of close games with good pitching, and we got some timely hits and we played good defense. But you can’t rest on what you’ve done so far. You just got to kind of pad the lead and just hope that nobody else can keep up.”
Verlander is 14-7 with a 2.90 ERA in 24 lifetime starts against Oakland. He hasn’t faced the A’s since the 2019 season, when he went 2-1 with a 2.00 in four starts against them.
Verlander had his worst outing of the season in his most recent appearance, when he surrendered six runs on 10 hits (including career-high-tying four home runs) in a 6-1 loss at Seattle on Friday. He entered the game with a 19-inning scoreless streak and the best ERA in the major leagues (1.22).
“It would have been nice to get in a rhythm, but I never felt like I did,” Verlander said afterward. “I made a lot of pretty hittable pitches and just need to execute a little bit better. I’m not going to say back to the drawing board, but I understand that I’ve got a lot of work to do and get to it.”
Oakland has lost two games in a row and five of its past six. Cristian Pache had a fourth-inning single that plated Elvis Andrus for the Athletics’ only run on Tuesday, while Tony Kemp, Ramon Laureano and Elvis Andrus had two hits apiece.
Following a 10-21 month of May, the A’s have fallen to the bottom of the AL West standings.
Irvin is 0-3 with a 7.40 ERA in four career starts against Houston. His most recent appearance was a no-decision on Friday at home against the Texas Rangers, his second appearance after missing three weeks due to a sore shoulder. He allowed three runs, two earned, in six innings during a game Oakland lost 8-5.
“Friday’s outing definitely felt a lot better than the last,” Irvin said. “That was my first IL stint, so I was wanting to make sure I felt good, felt healthy. Against Texas I felt like I was when we left camp — feeling strong.”
–Field Level Media