The Houston Astros envisioned a starting rotation with ample depth before injuries sapped that potential, starting with the loss of left-hander Framber Valdez (broken finger) in spring training.
But when Valdez limited the Boston Red Sox to one run over seven innings in the Astros’ 2-1 victory Wednesday, he extended a streak for Houston starters of seven consecutive games with one run allowed. Valdez, who missed the first 49 games while on the injured list, has started two games in the streak as has rookie right-hander Luis Garcia.
Houston welcomed back three starters from the injured list last weekend, and the results have been favorable. The Astros remain without right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (right shoulder soreness), with his anticipated return set to further deepen a starting staff meeting expectations.
“I had hoped so, but you didn’t know,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Don’t speak too quickly. (Thursday is) another day, and hopefully we can continue to pitch the way we have this last week. Starting pitching is the key, and the deeper they go the better it is for us.”
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (0-2, 6.75 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros. He returned from an extended stint on the injured list and worked 5 1/3 innings while allowing one run on three hits and a walk with four strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on May 29, marking his longest appearance since 2019.
Odorizzi will pitch in his 200th career game (197th start) Thursday. He is 4-6 with a 4.70 ERA over 18 career starts against the Red Sox. Odorizzi allowed five runs on nine hits over five innings in his last start against Boston on July 28, 2018.
Left-hander Martin Perez (3-2, 3.55 ERA) will start Thursday as the Red Sox attempt to avoid the sweep. His ERA leads all Boston starters, and Perez has allowed three earned runs or fewer in seven consecutive starts, the longest such streak in his career. He went 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA over five starts in May.
Perez is 7-4 with a 2.70 ERA over 12 career starts against the Astros, whom he last faced on May 1, 2019, when he tossed eight scoreless innings allowing four hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in a 6-2 victory while pitching for the Minnesota Twins.
The Red Sox continued their struggles offensively and have totaled four runs in the opening three games of the series. Boston entered the series third in the majors in runs per game.
Boston pushed Valdez in the first inning, but he escaped that 31-pitch frame with just one run on his ledger. From that point forward, the prevailing issues against Houston pitching reemerged.
“I do believe we had some pitches to hit or if we would have stayed with the approach we had early on it would have been good,” Boston manager Alex Cora said. “They’re not giving in. They pitch to the edge of the strike zone. When teams do that, we have to be more selective, and look middle-middle.”
That Boston has labored so significantly is a surprise, even given the vagaries of a long season.
“Sometimes you go through stuff like this and it’s very unexpected,” said Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who is 0-for-10 in the series. “We’ve got to continue to work because no one is going to feel sorry for us. Just continue putting in the work, that’s the only thing that matters. I’m telling you from experience everything will change.”
–Field Level Media