Astros-White Sox Preview
Astros manager Bo Porter believe Dallas Keuchel is one of baseball’s best pitchers, even if the left-hander went through a bit of a slump prior to the All-Star break.
Porter surely isn’t feeling as strongly about Houston’s struggling offense.
Keuchel takes the hill Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox as the visiting Astros look to avoid a third straight defeat.
A solid start to the season gave Keuchel (9-5, 3.20 ERA) a chance to be an All-Star, but he fell short of the AL’s final spot via the fan vote. He had a 2.38 ERA after beating Arizona on June 11 and had allowed more than three runs just twice in his first 13 starts.
Keuchel has given up at least four in each of his last four outings, though, going 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in that stretch. He allowed four runs in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-4 win over Texas in his most recent start July 9, though Porter was impressed with how Keuchel recovered after giving up each run in the first two innings.
"He proved why he’s one of the best pitchers in the American League and one of the best pitchers in baseball," Porter said. "To give up (four early runs) and grab back control of the game … speaks volumes to his maturity and the type of season he’s having."
Keuchel was solid in his only start against the White Sox on June 16, 2013, giving up two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 win. He shouldn’t count on that type of run support in this contest since the Astros (40-57) have scored just eight runs over their last four.
Houston jumped out to a 2-0 lead on three hits in the second inning of Friday’s series opener, but four White Sox pitchers combined to retire the final 22 batters in a 3-2 loss.
"We struck out 14 times. Offensively it is tough when you don’t make the other team defend the baseball," Porter said.
Dayan Viciedo hit a two-run homer in the sixth to tie it for the White Sox. Tyler Flowers, who came in hitting .106 over his previous 18 games, drove in the go-ahead run with a double in the seventh.
"I’ve been feeling better for the last 10 games maybe," Flowers said. "I haven’t had a whole lot of success statistically, but I’ve been seeing the ball a lot better."
Chicago (46-51) had lost four of five before the All-Star game.
"There were some good things that happened that you like to see coming out of the break," manager Robin Ventura said.
Jose Abreu went 1 for 4 and has hit safely in 27 of his last 28. He’s batting .355 with 10 homers in that span, though he’s just 1 for 10 in three games against Houston.
The White Sox will look to win for the fifth time in their last six at home as they send Hector Noesi to the mound.
Noesi (3-7, 5.26) went into the break on a sour note after giving up six runs and walking four in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to Cleveland on July 11. The White Sox have lost five of his last six starts.
"Every inning, I try to do the best I can for myself and for my team, but sometimes, you can’t help what happens," Noesi said. "We’re not perfect, so we make mistakes."
The right-hander wasn’t at his best against the Astros on May 17, either, giving up six runs – five earned – and eight hits in six innings of a 6-4 loss.