Astros focus on present, Tigers on future
DETROIT — While Houston works on its immediate future, the Detroit Tigers are working on the long view.
The Astros are positioning themselves for postseason play as September winds down. The Tigers hope the remainder of this year plus 2019 help Detroit return to contender status after launching its rebuild in July and August 2017.
Justin Verlander (15-9), traded from Detroit to Houston last Aug. 31 as part of the retooling, won his 20th regular-season game for the Astros since the deal on Monday night. Houston defeated Detroit 3-2, with Verlander fanning 10 in seven innings of six-hit pitching.
Christin Stewart, potentially a major part of the Tigers’ future, made his first major league start, in left field, and collected his first major league hit, a single to right in the sixth inning.
Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (7-6, 4.03 ERA) starts for Detroit against Houston on Tuesday night. Zimmermann owns a 2-3 record with a 3.09 ERA in seven starts against the Astros in his career, but this is his first start against them this year.
Rookie left-hander Framber Valdez (3-1, 1.37 ERA) will make his first career start against Detroit. Valdez will make his fifth appearance and fourth start of his career for Houston.
Valdez has gone at least four innings and allowed just one run or less in each of his first four games. His team has won eight of its last nine and is 15-4 in its last 19 games.
Houston has the future in mind with one of those pieces being rookie right-hander Josh James, who has made one start and one solid relief appearance.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch said Monday that James will work out of the bullpen against Detroit, but he is “not giving up hope” that the rookie can make another start in the team’s final games. James has a triple-digit fastall with a changeup and slider. He has made one start and one relief appearance.
“I think the intriguing part for him is it’s really hard to hit that kind of velocity and that kind of plus secondary stuff out of the pen,” Hinch said. “If you get one look at him, it’s very dynamic. He could still start and have a very quality start if we choose to do that. But the intriguing part is how velocity plays in September and potentially October.”
He was solid in relief Saturday at Boston and Hinch might see how that works out the remainder of the year.
“He looked like a reliever and a guy who could be relied on to face a really good lineup in really big innings,” Hinch said. “That kind of strike-throwing, that kind of demeanor and poise, he looks like a weapon.”
Detroit announced the callup of two pitchers — right-hander Spencer Turnbull and southpaw Matt Hall — and will activate both and announce before Tuesday’s game how the two will be used the remainder of the month.
A 40-man roster move must be made for Hall and it’s possible shortstop Jose Iglesias will be shifted from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL if the results of an examination Tuesday in Philadelphia determine he cannot effectively return this season.
Iglesias, a free agent at the end of the season, has a lower abdominal issue that put him out of action Aug. 30. His discomfort level is such that he hasn’t been able to do anything baseball related yet.
“He’s got stuff,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Turnbull, who has four solid pitches and likely will become part of a six-man rotation later in the week.
“He could go both ways (starting or relieving),” Gardenhire said of Hall, who has a dynamic curveball with an 88-91 fastball he has to spot to be effective, which he has done this year.