Astros look to rediscover groove vs. Rangers

There were bound to be repercussions for the Houston Astros following an unusual stretch of postponements during a homestand that featured fits and spurts and plenty of uncertainty.

The Astros (19-15) were ragged early and sloppy late in their 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series that was to conclude a 10-game homestand.

Instead, Hurricane Laura, a player-led protest and a positive COVID-19 test resulted in the second and third doubleheaders ever at Minute Maid Park, plus the Astros not finding out until Tuesday morning that their series with the Rangers would go on as scheduled.

“We were kind of dead early; we didn’t have a whole lot of life,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “We haven’t played a lot of games lately. That’s not an excuse, but we looked lethargic.”

Astros starter Framber Valdez was guilty of a hit batsman, a wild pitch and a throwing error in the top of the first inning. The Astros added two throwing errors and a balk in the 10th, greasing the skids to their own demise while essentially gift-wrapping a pair of runs for the Rangers.

The Astros played for the first time since their doubleheader sweep of the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. Prior to that, Houston had three consecutive days off, a severe disruption of timing.

“Yeah, you don’t like it, but it’s bound to happen,” Baker said, referencing in part the postponement of the series finale with Oakland due to a member of the Athletics’ traveling party testing positive for COVID-19.

“Hopefully we got all of this out of our system and we’ll come back sharp (Wednesday),” Baker said.

Said Astros outfielder Michael Brantley: “That’s no excuse. We’ve got to go out there and play better fundamental baseball.”

Right-hander Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.77 ERA) will make the seventh start and eighth appearance of his rookie season Wednesday for the Astros. He is averaging a strikeout per inning and owns a 1.03 WHIP.

After tossing six scoreless innings at the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 15, Javier scuffled in his two subsequent starts, allowing a combined six earned runs on 10 hits and four walks with 10 strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings for a 5.79 ERA. The Astros, however, won both of his starts.

Javier will make his first career appearance against Texas.

Left-hander Kolby Allard (0-3, 6.50 ERA) will get the start for the Rangers (13-21).

Allard was charged with the loss in each of his previous three starts, posting a 12.00 ERA while allowing an OPS of .950. He logged a season-high 5 1/3 innings on Aug. 26 against the Athletics, allowing two runs while issuing a season-high four walks.

Allard will make his second career appearance against the Astros. On Sept. 18, 2019, Allard suffered a 3-2 loss after allowing two runs on four hits and four walks over five innings.

On Tuesday, Texas received a decent outing from right-hander Jordan Lyles, who entered in the second inning following opener Luis Garcia and allowed three runs on six hits and one walk over five innings. There was talk that Lyles was tipping his pitches, an issue the Rangers addressed and corrected.

Lyles allowed 18 earned runs over his previous 13 innings and three starts.

“Yeah we kind of talked to him about it and he looked at it and made some adjustments with his glove,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said.

“Honestly he used all his pitches and I think that was the separator. If there was anything they could key off of because of tipping, it wasn’t there because he cleaned it up. I was watching it to see if I could see it and I didn’t see it (Tuesday) like I did last time,” Woodward said.

–Field Level Media