Cole, Minor set to make debuts for Astros, Rangers on Sunday

As if defending World Series champion Houston needed any more starting pitching, the Astros went out and got it anyway, picking up right-hander Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh in an offseason trade that fortified the rotation even more.

On Sunday at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, Cole will get his first regular-season start for Houston as the Astros look to win three of the four games in the opening weekend series against the Texas Rangers.

Texas will send left-hander Mike Minor, one of its big offseason acquisitions, to the mound in the series finale to oppose Cole (12-12, 4.26 ERA last season with Pittsburgh) and try to gain a split with the Astros.

Cole’s only previous start against the Rangers came during his rookie season in 2013 when he fired seven scoreless innings and got the win.

He said watching fellow right-handed starters Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. battle Texas this week will give him some idea how to attack the Rangers.

“Early in the season, everybody is more focused on themselves, but for sure, having Justin and Lance going, two right-handers, before myself is going to beneficial,” Cole told MLB.com. “They’ve just been so gracious, and being able to share information and try to get me acclimated has been an advantage as well.

“There’s a lot of great hitters in this division, a lot of great teams. I’ve got to do my homework and try to get familiar with them as quickly as I can, and hopefully that leads to some success.”

Minor, meanwhile, will start a major league game for the first time since 2014, when he was with Atlanta. Since then, Minor has undergone surgery to repair a torn shoulder labrum and pitched a total of 120 innings in the majors and minors combined, including relief appearances with Kansas City last year when he went 6-6 with a 2.55 ERA.

Minor is 1-1 with a 4.57 ERA (11 ER/21.2 IP) in six outings (three starts) against the Astros in his career, including three relief appearances in 2017 with the Royals.

Houston took the third game of the series 9-3 on Saturday afternoon behind 5 1/3 innings of solid two-run, four-hit pitching by McCullers and four-hit games from Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. One of Correa’s four hits was a two-run homer.

McCullers struck out 10 in the victory and beat Matt Moore, who lasted just four innings and gave up four runs and seven hits in his first appearance with Texas.

“McCullers made things very challenging for us today,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “Matt (Moore) got away from his game plan a little bit and he struggled early on to find his rhythm and tempo. Once he got that down, his best inning was his last.”

Elvis Andrus had a home run and scored three times for Texas.

The Rangers are expected to be without outfielder Delino DeShields for four to six weeks after he broke the hamate bone in his left hand on Friday in Texas’ 5-1 win over the Astros.

DeShields injured the hand fouling off a pitch in the seventh inning and remained in the game. He drew a walk and played the final two innings in the field. But he arrived at the clubhouse on Saturday experiencing significant swelling and was immediately sent for an MRI exam.

DeShields will undergo further evaluation, but surgery is expected.

“Delino’s injury is tough for him, and it’s tough for us because we can’t really replace him and his dynamic play in our lineup,” Bannister said. “We shuffled things around and are trying to find the best option for us to win.”