Astros begin series against struggling Twins

HOUSTON — Houston Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins on Monday at Minute Maid Park.

Keuchel (10-10, 3.58 ERA) is 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) against the Twins and took the loss on April 10 at Target Field after allowing three runs, six hits and four walks with six strikeouts in four innings of a 4-1 defeat. His four innings pitched represented a season low.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson (7-11, 3.79 ERA) gets the start for the Twins (63-73). He has surrendered at least three earned runs in five of his last six starts, going 2-4 with a 5.14 ERA and an .863 OPS allowed during that stretch.

Gibson is 3-1 with a 3.74 ERA in six career starts against the Astros. He allowed five runs, seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings in a 9-8 home victory over Houston on April 11. He did not factor into the decision.

The Twins have dropped 7 of 9 games. They employed the “opener” strategy for the first time this season on Sunday in an 18-4 loss to the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Despite the unfavorable results, Twins manager Paul Molitor did not rule out executing the game plan a second time.

“It’s one game,” Molitor said to MLB.com. “You’re hoping to get a chance to get through the first inning unscathed and we didn’t. As far as moving forward, there are going to be more people to get opportunities in those situations. We just have to keep trying to find the right guy to get the game started and on a good note.”

While right-hander Roberto Osuna represented the more high-profile addition to the Houston bullpen on Sunday at the non-waiver trade deadline, both in on-field reputation and off-field notoriety, fellow right-handed reliever Ryan Pressly continues to serve the Astros well.

Pressly produced his 10th consecutive scoreless appearance, getting two strikeouts while working around a one-out single in the seventh inning of a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels that enabled the Astros (84-53) to split a four-game series.

Pressly has allowed just four baserunners during his scoreless stretch, posting 13 strikeouts against no walks in 9 1/3 innings. He has settled into the seventh-inning role for the Astros in high-leverage situations, pitching just ahead of right-hander Hector Rondon, who in turn has been supplanted by Osuna as the closer.

Opposing batters have hit .125 against Pressly in his last 10 appearances, validating the effort made in acquiring him from the Minnesota Twins.

“Pressly’s been incredible,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s up almost every day, he’s thrown a lot of innings in a lot of close games with very little margin for error.

“The swing and miss — he’s got two power breaking balls (a slider plus a curveball). And he was an under-the-radar addition for us that our front office targeted, went out, and traded for him. And he finds himself in really important innings, seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.

“To get those kinds of swings and misses consistently is not easy at this level. We largely overlook it sometimes when he just comes in and does his job efficiently and gets to the next day. He’s been a tremendous help for us.”