Slumping Rangers continue Texas tussle vs. ascending Astros

MLB

The Houston Astros received two doses of good news relative to their starting pitching staff Thursday, with right-hander Jake Odorizzi and left-hander Framber Valdez both nearing returns.

On the heels of losing right-hander Jose Urquidy to posterior shoulder discomfort in the finale of their three-game series with the Los Angeles Angels, the Astros opened a four-game set with Texas aware that Odorizzi and Valdez are trending toward reinstatement from the injured list.

Odorizzi, placed on the 10-day IL with a right pronator muscle strain on April 25, is set to make his first rehab assignment start next week. Valdez has missed the entire season with a left index finger fracture. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session with the Astros on Friday. Getting Odorizzi and Valdez back would deepen a rotation that has performed ably despite injuries.

Right-hander Zack Greinke (2-1, 4.23 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Friday. Greinke has slumped of late, posting an 8.25 ERA over his last three starts while logging just 12 innings. He has issued six walks and has allowed the opposition a .985 OPS.

“Nobody can pitch good all the time, nobody can hit good all the time,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “That’s why we play 162 games. You’re going to go through ebbs and flows, you’re going to go through ups and downs. I was just thinking it’s more of an up and down.”

Greinke is 4-6 with a 2.99 ERA over 18 career games (16 starts) against the Rangers.

Left-hander Wes Benjamin (0-1, 4.76 ERA) is scheduled to be recalled from Triple-A Round Rock to make his first start of the season and the second of his career for Texas on Friday. Benjamin has made three relief appearances for Texas, amassing six walks against five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings prior to being optioned to the alternate training site and later assigned to Round Rock. He has faced the Astros once previously, earning the victory in the Rangers’ final game last season after allowing one run on two hits in one inning. His lone career start came against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 23, 2020, with Benjamin allowing three runs, seven hits and one walk with three strikeouts in five innings in the Rangers’ 7-3 loss.

The Rangers’ 4-3, extra-inning loss to the Astros turned in part on another play that Texas third baseman Charlie Culberson failed to make. His throwing error in the sixth inning on Tuesday in a 4-2 road loss to the San Francisco Giants yielded two runs and proved costly. In the second inning against Houston, he failed to knock down a sharp grounder from Jose Altuve, with the ball eluding his glove and rolling to the left-field corner. Altuve cleared the bases with his double.

“You want him to catch the ball, that’s the main thing,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “Charlie and I talk about this a lot: I would have liked to have seen him attack that ball, more coming through it. It’s not an easy play, it’s an in-between play. He’s in no-man’s land guarding a little against the bunt there and put himself in a tough spot right in that in-between land.

“If he catches it on the short hop … he’s got a ton of options at that point with the ball hit close to the bag. Obviously, he’ll tell you he should have made the play, but we battled back and we were tied after that and had plenty of other chances to win the game.”

–Field Level Media

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