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Jun 16, 2024 7:07 am

Astros to delve into pitching depth in series finale vs. Tigers

Ronel Blanco

The Houston Astros scratched veteran right-hander Justin Verlander from his scheduled start on Saturday, continuing the season-long injury issues with their rotation.

Verlander has experienced neck discomfort over the past couple of weeks. The Astros decided that skipping his turn in the rotation might provide him a path to recovery. Houston fell 13-5 to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, squaring that three-game series and setting up the rubber match on Sunday afternoon.

The Astros have lost starters Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy to season-ending elbow surgeries. Javier initially landed on the injured list with neck discomfort before his elbow woes.

“It’s not ideal,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “You don’t want to hear any of your players having pain anywhere. I’m not going to get into if it’s the same trajectory as Javier. We’re going to let JV let us know how he feels, and we’ll just deal day to day.”

Injuries to starters have left the Astros’ depth virtually nonexistent. Losing Verlander to the IL or for any prolonged stretch could prove cataclysmic.

“It’s tough because of the starters who have gone down for us and how every game means more for us right now because of the position that we are in,” Espada said. “But I do still feel like we do have some depth. But it’s just not what you want to hear right now during this stretch.”

While the Astros opted not to name a starter for Sunday, right-hander Ronel Blanco (6-2, 2.67 ERA) could take the mound on regular rest. He snapped a two-start losing streak against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday after allowing one run on three hits and one walk with a season high-tying eight strikeouts over six innings in the Astros’ 3-1 road win. Before his skid, Blanco was 5-0 with a 1.99 ERA.

Blanco has made two career relief appearances against the Tigers. He has worked three scoreless innings, allowing two hits while posting three strikeouts without recording a decision.

Right-hander Kenta Maeda (2-2, 5.89 ERA) is scheduled to start the rubber match for Detroit. It will mark the second start for Maeda since he departed his outing against the Texas Rangers on June 5 with right-side abdominal discomfort after throwing only two pitches.

Maeda allowed one run on one hit and four walks with five strikeouts over four innings on Tuesday but did not factor into the decision of a 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals in 10 innings.

The Tigers won three of his four starts last month despite Maeda posting a 6.62 ERA.

Maeda is 1-1 with a 6.97 ERA in two career starts against the Astros. In his previous start against them on Aug. 8, 2021, Maeda allowed three runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 5-4 victory while pitching for the Minnesota Twins.

Getting Maeda on track following his two-pitch outing remains a foremost goal for the Tigers. He has struggled with consistency, posting two starts last month in which he allowed a combined one run over 11 innings and two others where he surrendered 12 runs in 6 2/3 innings.

“The biggest thing the last start was to get his endurance up,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Obviously we need him to execute better and better, so coming out of the two-pitch outing physically, we wanted him to get through his outing, get built up a little bit. He’s had a really choppy two to three weeks.”

–Field Level Media

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