Cole, one of three Astros All-Stars on staff, faces Tigers
HOUSTON — Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch relished the task of informing right-hander Charlie Morton that he had been named as a replacement on the American League All-Star team on Friday morning, making Morton the third starter from the Houston staff to earn the honor.
Morton (11-2, 2.96 ERA) will participate in his first All-Star Game at 34 years old and in his 11th season in the majors, replacing Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. Morton’s career has been hamstrung by injuries that undermined his ability to maximize his potential.
Prior to this season, Morton had logged 100 innings in a season only five times, with the 146 2/3 innings he posted in his first season with the Astros (63-34) eclipsed only by the totals he amassed in Pittsburgh in 2011 (171 2/3) and 2014 (157 1/3). His 14 wins in 2017 represented a career high.
“We’ve said all year that we feel like we have the most dynamic starting rotation in baseball,” Hinch said. “They’ve had a tremendous first half so far … we’re well represented at the All-Star Game because of that. There’s been stretches where Dallas (Keuchel) and Lance (McCullers) have been equally as good as the other three.
“I’m very proud of the fact that we show up every day. We feel like our starter sets a great tone and that’s one of the main reasons why we’re a good team.”
Cole (9-2, 2.57 ERA) will return from the bereavement list and make his 20th start of the season on Saturday. Cole, 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA over four career starts against Detroit, set the club record for strikeouts before the All-Star break in his previous appearance, increasing his total to 169. Cole did not factor into the decision in a 2-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics despite posting 11 strikeouts over six shutout innings and producing his 14th quality start on the season.
Right-hander Michael Fulmer (3-8, 4.11) will get the start for the Tigers (40-56) on Saturday. The 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, Fulmer is having the worst season of his young career, posting career-worst totals in adjusted ERA (107), FIP (4.03) and WHIP (1.267) while serving as the subject of trade rumors for rebuilding Detroit.
Fulmer has faced the Astros once in his career, finishing on the wrong end of a 1-0 loss after allowing one run on eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts over seven innings on May 22, 2017, at Minute Maid Park.
The Tigers suffered their 12th shutout loss on the season on Friday, falling 3-0 as Astros left-hander Keuchel worked six scoreless innings ahead of relievers Tony Sipp, Brad Peacock, and Hector Rondon.
It served as an inauspicious opening to the series for Detroit, with the Astros scheduled to start Cole and Verlander in succession, with both coming off scoreless appearances earlier this week.
“It goes with the territory,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We are young, and we don’t have a lot of experienced hitters in the lineup. We just need to get a couple of those big hits, which we haven’t been able to do.”