Royals-Astros Preview

Scott Feldman is the highest-paid player for the low-budget Houston Astros, who gave the veteran a big contract this offseason despite likely being years away from contending.

It’s turned out to be a wise investment so far.

Feldman takes the mound Thursday night looking to help the Astros avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the visiting Kansas City Royals.

The 31-year-old Feldman signed a three-year, $30 million deal in December after going 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA with the Chicago Cubs and Baltimore in 2013.

The right-hander makes nearly double the money of the second-highest paid Astro – outfielder Dexter Fowler – but Feldman (2-0, 0.44 ERA) has been one of baseball’s best pitchers early on, giving up just one run over 20 2-3 innings.

He allowed two hits over seven frames but got no run support while opposing Yu Darvish in Houston’s 1-0, 12-inning loss to Texas on Friday, just two days after his father passed away. After taking a few days to gather his emotions, Feldman said he won’t miss a start.

"I’ve never been away from the team like this in my career," Feldman told the Astros’ official website Tuesday. "It was not fun, but I’m glad to be back."

General manager Jeff Luhnow has been impressed with what he’s seen.

"Am I surprised he’s had three good outings? No. Is he going to have all good outings this year? Probably not," Luhnow said. "He’s a veteran pitcher, and there’s a reason we signed him. He’s living up to our expectations, and I think he’ll continue."

Feldman is 4-2 with a 2.92 ERA in eight career starts against the Royals, most recently giving up two runs in eight innings of a 9-2 victory July 22. He’ll look to help Houston (5-10) avoid a fourth straight defeat after it fell 6-4 in 11 innings Wednesday.

Jason Castro and Marc Krauss each hit a two-run homer before the bullpen gave up the final four runs of the game. Top prospect George Springer went 1 for 5 in his major league debut.

"It’s always good to get that first one out of the way," Springer said. "Now I can relax, breathe a little bit and just have some fun."

Mike Moustakas hit a tiebreaking homer in the 11th for the Royals (6-7), who have won five straight meetings with the Astros. Moustakas came in 4 for 40 on the season.

"It was big for Moose to do it for us," manager Ned Yost said. "He’s been working really, really hard and tirelessly getting after it. He just needed a little luck and one good at-bat."

James Shields will take the mound for Kansas City looking to bounce back from a disappointing outing.

Shields (0-2, 2.37) had a pair of solid starts before giving up seven runs – though only one was earned – in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-1 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. Sloppy defense, including an error by Shields, led to six unearned runs in the second inning.

"Anytime you have 60-something pitches after two, it’s kind of hit or miss, but it’s my job to keep going and try to go as deep as I can," Shields said. "I guess that was a good job by me, but overall, I wasn’t too pleased with my outing."

The right-hander has kept the bullpen fresh in each of his three starts against the Astros, pitching at least seven innings while going 1-1 with a 1.96 ERA.