Astros look to maintain roll as they host Rockies

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When the Houston Astros returned home last week with their collective tails between their legs following a ragged road trip, manager Dusty Baker suggested that the only means of reversing course would be for his club to adhere to the finer details of the game and execute accordingly.

In completing a three-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners with a 3-2 win on Sunday, the Astros blended timely hitting, opportunistic defense and exceptional pitching to the desired effect. Now, with the Colorado Rockies set to pay a visit for the first two games of a four-game series that will conclude in Denver later this week, the Astros are on a bit of a roll.

“We’re playing pretty good ball, especially when you’re winning low-scoring, one-run games,” Baker said. “We’re just trying to win every game we can. We started the next third of the season 1-0 and we’ve just got to keep it going.”

Astros catcher Martin Maldonado erased a pair of would-be base stealers in the series finale, a game capped by a walk-off home run from left fielder Kyle Tucker. And three rookie relievers — Andre Scrubb, Enoli Paredes and Blake Taylor — pitched effectively between starter Lance McCullers Jr. and veteran closer Ryan Pressly, providing evidence that each has settled in.

“I’m quite amazed by what this young bullpen is doing,” McCullers said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Said Baker: “They’re no longer rookies in our eyes. They’re no longer getting their feet wet. Their feet are wet.”

Rookie right-hander Brandon Bielak (2-0, 1.76 ERA) will open the series for Houston. Bielak has yet to record a decision as a starter, posting a 1.80 ERA and 1.20 WHIP while issuing four walks and recording five strikeouts over 10 innings. He became the fifth pitcher in club history to get the win in his first two major league appearances. Monday will mark his first career outing against the Rockies and his third consecutive interleague start.

Left-hander Kyle Freeland (2-0, 2.45 ERA) will start for Colorado. The Rockies are 4-0 this season with Freeland on the mound, although Freeland has not recorded a decision in his last two starts despite allowing five earned runs over 13 2/3 innings. Freeland, 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA over 13 career interleague starts, will make his first appearance against the Astros.

The Rockies snapped a three-game losing skid with their 10-6 win over the Texas Rangers at Coors Field on Sunday, ending a stretch of five losses in six games following a promising 11-3 start. The very nature of the abbreviated, 60-game schedule lends to heightened concern with every extended slump, applying pressure to players to reverse course and coaching staffs to assess when to make lineup changes.

“We’re conscious of that,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We don’t have the ability to ride a player that’s talented over 150 at-bats or 100 at-bats if he’s struggling knowing that he’s going to come out of it. There are going to be times that we pop somebody in there for a couple of starts, and hopefully, that generates some good action for us.”

–Field Level Media

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