White Sox-Astros Preview
HOUSTON — Astros manager A.J. Hinch discussing his near-decision to rest second baseman Jose Altuve on Wednesday made for an amusing anecdote in the aftermath of another Houston victory over the Angels and yet another scorching performance from the red-hot Altuve at the plate.
With the Astros (42-37) set to host the White Sox (40-39) and kick off a 10-game homestand that will close the unofficial first half of the season, they come equipped with arguably the hottest hitter in the American League. Altuve finished 4-for-5 and a home run short of the cycle in the series finale against the Angels, the second time during the Astros' six-game roadie that he finished just shy of a cycle.
Altuve posted a .420/.492/.620 slash line over 26 games in June and served as the key cog fueling the Astros' 18-8 record. Altuve has played in every game this season and carried a 32-game on-base streak into July. Although the Rangers maintain an 8 1/2-game lead in the AL West, the Astros have roared back into wild card contention with their upcoming stretch at Minute Maid Park — where they've won 12 of 14 games — looming large as a jumping off point for the second half.
The indefatigable Altuve remains the catalyst despite the fatigue.
“At some point this homestand I'm committed to giving him a couple days (off),” Hinch said. “He's going to have a busy All-Star break, but if he continues to go like this, players don't want to come out very often.”
Right-hander Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.41 ERA) gets the ball for the Astros on Friday. Fiers did not pitch when Houston visited Chicago from May 17-19, and has two no-decisions and a 1.32 ERA in two starts against the White Sox.
White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (1-3, 5.17 ERA) makes his 11th start (12th appearance) for Chicago having gone 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA while working only 15 1/3 innings over his previous three starts. Gonzalez is 1-3 with a 3.60 ERA in five career starts against the Astros.
After winning 17 of 25 games in April, the White Sox posted back-to-back losing months. However, their 6-5 victory over the Twins on Thursday sealed their third consecutive series victory.
White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera will be sidelined for the series opener against the Astros and could miss the entire set after being prescribed with rest to combat a sprained right wrist suffered June 18.
With Cabrera out, the White Sox recalled third baseman Matt Davidson, who served as the designated hitter Thursday and finished 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored, from Triple-A Charlotte. Davidson hit .268 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs for the Knights. He is the 15th player promoted from Charlotte this season and will spell third baseman Todd Frazier and first baseman Jose Abreu at the corner infield positions whenever Cabrera returns.
“He's been swinging it pretty good in Charlotte,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of Davidson. “What happened to him in his journey, last year he struggled and I think he's just in a better spot than he's ever been and understands himself better. I think he's gotten over that, trying to impress and trying to do too much and the pressure that come with that.
“Even in spring training he was in a great spot and that whole experience has helped him for right now.”