Blue Jays-Astros Preview

Excellent production at the plate has the Houston Astros in

position to sweep a series at home for the first time in 15

months.

The Toronto Blue Jays are hoping Mark Buehrle can prevent that

from happening.

The Astros will attempt to solve Buehrle for the first time and

sweep this three-game set from the struggling Toronto Blue Jays on

Sunday.

Houston (43-85), owner of the worst record in baseball, have

totaled 20 runs in winning the first two games after Saturday’s 8-5

victory.

The Astros had dropped 17 of their previous 20 at Minute Maid

Park, batting .213 while averaging 3.4 runs.

Houston has a .329 average over the last two games, with four

home runs among its 14 extra-base hits and 23 overall. Now, the

Astros are trying to sweep a series at home for the first time

taking three games from the Chicago Cubs from May 21-23, 2012.

Sweeping the Blue Jays (57-73), however, may be a tall task

since they’re giving the ball to Buehrle (9-7, 4.23 ERA).

The veteran left-hander started the season 1-3 with a 6.33 ERA

through his first nine starts, but he’s 8-4 with a 3.19 ERA in 17

games since. He’s won his last four decisions behind a 2.41 ERA in

six outings.

Buehrle seemed to be headed for another win Tuesday, but gave up

a game-tying homer before exiting with two outs in the seventh of a

3-2 loss at the New York Yankees.

“One too many bad pitches, I guess,” Buehrle told the team’s

official website.

Buehrle has won both of his starts against the Astros, yielding

one run in 17 innings. He was masterful while tossing a two-hitter

with nine strikeouts in a 4-0 home win July 25.

This will be his first appearance at Minute Maid Park since

getting a save with the Chicago White Sox in Game 3 of the 2005

World Series.

Buehrle held Jason Castro hitless in four at-bats – fanning him

twice – last month. However, the catcher enters this matchup

hitting .371 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 19 games.

Castro has four hits in this series after going 3 for 3 with two

homers and three RBIs Saturday. His 17 homers have matched the

team’s single-season record for a catcher, set by John Bateman in

1966.

“The biggest thing that I’ve really been trying to do this year

is stay as consistent as possible and really not deviate from my

approach,” Castro said. “I’ve tried to be as simple as possible and

it’s worked out so far.”

The Astros will send Dallas Keuchel (5-7, 5.11) to the mound,

and the left-hander is 0-1 over his last two outings, allowing 10

runs in 12 2-3 innings.

He was pulled after four-plus frames Aug. 17, allowing four runs

with three walks while not getting a decision in a 6-5 road defeat

to the Los Angeles Angels.

Keuchel surrendered six runs and three homers in 7 1-3 innings

in an 8-6 victory in his only career start versus Toronto on July

27.

The Jays have dropped seven in a row, matching their season

worst from July 14-24, and are on the cusp of their longest slide

since a nine-game stretch from May 19-27, 2009.