Astros’ Martes forced into start against Rangers (Jun 14, 2017)

HOUSTON — Opportunity will knock for Houston Astros right-hander Francis Martes on Wednesday night despite the fact that he is not quite ready for the moment.

An avalanche of injuries to its rotation has forced Houston to fast track Martes, its top pitching prospect, into his first career start opposite the Texas Rangers. Martes (0-0, 9.82 ERA) made his major league debut on June 9 against the Los Angeles Angels, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings of relief. His 78 pitches were the third most by an Astros reliever in his debut.

With Lance McCullers joining Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Collin McHugh on the disabled list, Martes will make the leap earlier than anyone anticipated.

“I think any young pitcher is going to have a lot of adrenaline and energy and anxiousness to him,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s going to start with controlling the strike zone. That’s an aggressive team across the way; we’ll see how they approach him.

“With Martes when he throws strikes, he’s going to be OK. When he doesn’t throw strikes, it’s difficult on himself and on our team.”

The onus to keep Martes, 21, stabilized will fall in part on catcher Brian McCann, who has done exceptional work with Astros pitchers in his first season with Houston. Martes struggled with Triple-A Fresno prior to his promotion, one necessitated by injuries, so the bar of expectation is relatively low entering the series finale. McCann will play a central role nursing Martes along.

“He (McCann) plays a good role every day but specifically with a young pitcher,” Hinch said. “I think it’s important for him to partner up with that catcher and be on the same page, to trust, to execute pitches. The pitcher-catcher relationship is something I certainly look at and expect them to work together.”

Right-hander Andrew Cashner (3-5, 3.17 ERA) will get the start for the Rangers. Cashner is 2-4 with a 4.41 ERA over 12 career games (four starts) against Houston, including a pair of starts this season, where he has gone 0-2 with a 5.25 ERA. Cashner, 3-2 with a 3.94 ERA over his last five starts, has six quality starts over his last eight appearances. He will work on extended five days’ rest for a second time.

In beating the Astros (44-22) on Tuesday night, Texas (32-32) extended its winning streak to five games. Second baseman Rougned Odor, who finished 2-for-4 with an RBI triple and a stolen base in the series opener, added another multi-hit game plus his fifth career multi-homer game by going 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

Texas will play Wednesday night looking to negate the sweep the Astros managed in Arlington the first weekend of June. Odor will likely play a key role.

“Just a huge night for Roogie,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “It’s been probably the last three weeks that we’ve seen the ratio of barrel-to-ball start to show up better for us. Some better swings, laying off some pitches down and out of the zone a little more consistently (and) limiting the chase. He came up huge for us tonight, really the last few nights.”

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