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Apr 29, 2024 8:00 pm

After slow start, Astros on upswing heading into Guardians series

Hunter Brown

Time will tell if the Astros have dug themselves a hole too deep for them to escape, but following a successful weekend in Mexico City, Houston has generated a measure of hope.

The Astros completed a two-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies with an 8-2 victory on Sunday behind left-hander Framber Valdez, who returned from a stint on the 15-day injured list by allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts over five solid innings.

The Astros will open a six-game homestand on Tuesday with the first of a three-game set against the Cleveland Guardians. They will do so with Valdez and veteran right-hander Justin Verlander back in their rotation after completing a large chunk of April without both.

Houston will enter the final game of the first full month of the season 10 games below .500 and in last place in the American League West. An injury-ravaged rotation is the primary culprit to the poor start, with right-handers Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier currently on the IL.

Javier (neck) could return as early as next weekend, while Urquidy (forearm strain) is trending toward a mid-May return.

As part of the Astros’ roster flux, slugging prospect Joey Loperfido will join the club on Tuesday after bashing his minor league-leading 13th home run with Triple-A Sugar Land on Sunday. The Astros made the announcement Monday with 37-year-old first baseman Jose Abreu off to a slow start at the plate. Abreu has one extra-base hit and a batting average of .099 in 22 games.

Following an opening month that left their roster strapped, Valdez rejoining the fray was the shot in the arm the club sorely needed.

“It was encouraging to see him, the way he threw the ball,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “And just seeing him healthy, it was great to see.”

Right-hander Hunter Brown (0-4, 9.68 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Astros on Tuesday. He has labored this season, posting a 2.491 WHIP while allowing 16.3 hits and 6.1 walks per nine innings. Brown has logged just one quality start this season, and he allowed three runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts over four innings in a 6-0 loss to the Washington Nationals in his most recent outing April 21.

Brown will make his first career appearance against the Guardians.

Veteran right-hander Carlos Carrasco (1-2, 4.63 ERA) is the scheduled starter for Cleveland. He surrendered a season-worst five earned runs against the Boston Red Sox on April 24, suffering an 8-0 loss after allowing nine hits — including three home runs — and one walk with four strikeouts over five innings. Carrasco has yet to record a quality start in five appearances.

Carrasco is 4-5 with a 4.92 ERA over 11 career appearances (10 starts) against Houston. In his previous appearance against the Astros, Carrasco allowed six runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in a 9-1 loss while with the New York Mets on June 28, 2022.

The Guardians completed a fiercely competitive three-game series against the Atlanta Braves with a 4-3, 10-inning loss in Sunday’s rubber match. Cleveland won the middle game of the series in 11 innings and showed signs that a surprising start might be sustainable.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with how we played this weekend,” Guardians manager Stephen Vogt said. “You’re going against one of the best teams in the league and we proved we’re one of the best teams in the league as well.

“We were right in every game and it could have gone either way. We’re either walking out of here really happy or we’re walking out of here happy because we played good baseball and we’re still playing good baseball.”

–Field Level Media

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