On the heels of absorbing a three-hitter at the right hand of Lucas Giolito on Saturday, the Houston Astros entered the finale of their three-game series at the Chicago White Sox still leading the majors in runs (504), hits (851) and batting (.268).
On Sunday, White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon combined with two relievers to limit the Astros to one hit while sending Houston to its fourth shutout loss and third over the last six games.
The Astros will open a six-game homestand against the Cleveland Indians Monday in the throes of an offensive slump, one that qualifies as an extended stretch for the best offense in baseball.
“Like they say: Good pitching beats good hitting,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “And then when you don’t hit, they ask, ‘What’s wrong?’ Hitting is one of the hardest things to do in baseball and we’re amongst the best. We ran into some real good pitching the last couple of days. It’s no secret they have one of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball. These things are going to happen, and we just have to put this behind us and get on to Cleveland.”
The Astros remain without third baseman Alex Bregman (left quad strain), who has not played since June 16. Fellow sluggers Yordan Alvarez and Carlos Correa are in individual slumps, further exacerbating the absence of Bregman, who is set to begin a rehab assignment shortly.
Houston swept a four-game set at Cleveland July 1-4, outscoring the Indians 20-10 in the process.
Right-hander Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.59 ERA) will start the series opener for the Astros. It will mark his 20th start of the season and his second against the Indians. He allowed three runs and five hits but didn’t get a decision in a 4-3 10-inning victory against Cleveland on July 4.
For his career, Greinke is 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA in 30 games (25 starts) against the Indians.
Rookie right-hander J.C. Mejia (1-4, 7.42 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Indians. After making his first three career appearances out of the bullpen following his major league debut on May 21, Mejia has gone 0-4 with an 8.88 ERA over seven starts since June 4.
Opposing hitters have produced a .290/.360/.520 slash line during that stretch, with Mejia posting just one quality start since joining the rotation. He faced the Astros on July 1, allowing six runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts over four innings in a 7-2 loss.
With corner outfielders Eddie Rosario and Josh Naylor, who rank fourth and fifth on the team in plate appearances, currently on the injured list, the Indians have been in a desperate search of production from their outfielders.
In claiming the rubber game of their weekend series against the Oakland Athletics 4-2 Sunday, the Indians received home runs from center fielder Bradley Zimmer and rookie right fielder Daniel Johnson, whose first career dinger gave Cleveland the lead for good in the top of the seventh inning.
“Having other guys step up is huge,” Zimmer said. “It creates more of a threat throughout the whole lineup. All around I think it just helps the team from top to bottom.”
–Field Level Media