Astros’ Correa to return in series finale vs. Blue Jays

HOUSTON — With shortstop Carlos Correa battling what was described as back stiffness, Astros manager A.J. Hinch opted to keep Correa out of the lineup Tuesday against Toronto.

Correa, batting .268 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs, missed his eighth game of the season. Hinch is an advocate of resting his primary regulars and with Houston playing a day game Wednesday following their 7-0 victory Tuesday night, he opted to give Correa a break with the club also facing a grueling stretch of play over the coming weeks.

“We’re playing 23 out of 24 days. We’re in the midst of the grind of the season before the All-Star break and I’m always looking for a day off,” Hinch said. “We’ve talked about rest for the better part of the last couple of weeks. There’s another day coming probably for him and there’s probably another day off for George (Springer), maybe even one for Jose (Altuve) before the break. All of that added up, it made for an easy (decision) not to play him.”

Left-hander Dallas Keuchel (4-8, 3.90 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros (53-28).

Keuchel posted his second consecutive start without allowing an earned run on June 22 against the Kansas City Royals, surrendering six hits and two walks with six strikeouts over six innings. He is 3-0 with a 3.62 ERA over four career starts against the Blue Jays, last facing Toronto on May 15, 2015, and allowing four runs on eight hits and three walks over six innings in an 8-4 home victory.

Right-hander Marco Estrada (4-7, 4.48 ERA) will start the rubber match for Toronto (37-42). Estrada has pitched exceptionally this month, going 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 26 strikeouts over four starts and 25 2/3 innings while limiting opposing batters to a .510 OPS. He is 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA over 12 career appearances (six starts) against Houston.

Blue Jays All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson experienced a setback while rehabbing the left calf injury that landed him on the 10-day disabled list May 29. Donaldson was preparing to play in a rehab game in Florida and sustained an injury while taking ground balls. An MRI revealed an acute strain of the left calf, and Donaldson will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Donaldson was trending toward a return to action, perhaps as soon as this weekend against the Detroit Tigers. He has suffered through a largely lost season, logging 36 games with five home runs and 16 RBIs. Donaldson missed his 25th consecutive game Tuesday and 43rd overall this season, with the Blue Jays dropping to 21-22 without him in their lineup.

Donaldson, a free agent following the season, could be a trade chip at the non-waiver deadline next month, but his injury situation leaves that immediate future murky at best.

“The previous week we thought there was a chance,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “He was moving along fine and then something happened. What are you going to do?

“It’s been a frustrating year for him. He’s actually hanging in there OK considering. But he’s frustrated.”