Dallas Keuchel sorely needs a home start, and having it come against the worst team in the AL could certainly help.
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After two trying road outings, the reigning Cy Young winner takes on the Minnesota Twins on Monday night with the Houston Astros needing a win to notch consecutive victories for the first time this season and avoid joining the Twins in the cellar.
Keuchel (2-3, 4.41 ERA) has won a franchise-record 17 straight regular-season decisions at home with a 1.47 ERA over 22 starts with the team going 20-2. He hasn’t lost in Houston since Aug. 10, 2014, but even Minute Maid Park might not have saved him from his recent efforts.
After holding Detroit to five hits in eight innings of a 1-0 home win April 15, the left-hander has lost consecutive outings with 11 runs and 19 hits allowed in 12 innings. He gave up five runs and six hits in six innings of Tuesday’s 11-1 loss in Seattle.
"Just can’t do anything right. That’s just the way it’s going," Keuchel told MLB’s official website. "It seems like I made a few pitches, a bloop single. When it’s not going right, it’s not going right. The tough thing about it is nobody’s going to feel sorry for you."
Keuchel is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA in three career starts against the Twins. Miguel Sano is 0 for 4 with four strikeouts and Kurt Suzuki is 1 for 9.
The Astros (8-17) set themselves up for their first back-to-back wins with Sunday’s 2-1 win in Oakland to avoid a sweep, but offense still isn’t coming. They managed two hits and are batting .167 over a 2-3 span with 2.80 runs per game.
One of the hits Sunday was Jose Altuve’s fourth leadoff homer of the season, which has him halfway to Craig Biggio’s 2001 franchise record.
But Carlos Correa is 2 for 15 with seven strikeouts in his last five, Colby Rasmus is 3 for 21 over six, Tyler White is 2 for 30 over eight, and Preston Tucker is 5 for 38 since opening the season with a five-game hitting streak.
It certainly doesn’t help that Carlos Gomez, who has struggled while in the lineup, has missed the last two games because of a rib cage injury. He won’t play Monday against his former club, and the disabled list remains an option.
"We’re hoping to avoid the disabled list," manager A.J. Hinch said. "That will be determined in the Twins series. If it lingers, we’ll need to look for reinforcements, whether that means going with 12 pitchers or making another move."
Regardless, the offense could come against Minnesota (7-18), which was swept in three games at home by Detroit over the weekend, including Sunday’s 6-5 final despite three-hit games from Sano and Joe Mauer. The Twins have given up 6.25 runs per game on a four-game skid with opponents batting .327.
They’re hoping for a 21-year-old rookie to change that. Jose Berrios is making his second career start after giving up five runs and six hits in four innings of Wednesday’s 6-5 home loss to Cleveland.
Berrios (0-1, 11.25), considered one of the game’s top prospects, had to deal with a rain delay and 44-degree weather in his debut, so he too might prefer Minute Maid Park even if it’s against Keuchel.
He was 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA, .143 OBA and 20 strikeouts in 17 innings of three starts with Triple-A Rochester before the promotion.
"When I got on the mound and threw the first pitch, I was excited, but after that, I felt comfortable," Berrios said. "Today I didn’t have very good command with my secondary pitches. But that happens. So I’ll keep working hard on that for my next start."