HOUSTON — The Houston Astros hit the quarter pole of the season on Friday, a point too soon to draw conclusions but not so early that manager A.J. Hinch didn’t field queries regarding sample sizes.
The Astros (24-16) entered their three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park averaging just 3.8 runs at home compared with 5.9 runs on the road. Their slash line at home: .227/.296/.356 with a .652 OPS entering their 20th game at Minute Maid Park. Through 20 games on the road, the Astros are slashing .289/.367/.464 with a robust .832 OPS.
Hinch was quick to dismiss the disparity, but there is this tidbit: Last season, the Astros averaged 4.9 runs at home with an .812 OPS while scoring 6.2 runs per game on the road with an .834 OPS.
The Astros suffered a 1-0 loss in the series opener Friday.
“We’re a quarter of the way through the season so I don’t think we can draw too many conclusions on much of anything,” Hinch said. “I don’t think that we’re going to struggle at home in general. I think we’ll be just fine.
“I think we’re a good offensive team regardless. I don’t want to look too hard or too far into any of that. I think we’re a really good offense. I think we can score from any point of the lineup. I think we’re dynamic, I think we’re pretty athletic. We can run, we can hit the ball out of the ballpark, we can put the ball in play, I can start runners whenever I want. Just give me a ballpark to put this team on and I’ll take my chances.”
Right-hander Charlie Morton (4-0, 2.16 ERA) will start Saturday’s middle game of the series for the Astros. He is 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA in four career starts against Texas, including a no-decision on April 14 when he allowed two runs, six hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts in six innings of a 6-5 home loss. Morton had eight strikeouts in his lone home start against Texas last season.
Right-hander Doug Fister (1-3, 4.02) gets the start for the Rangers. Fister is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA in his four career starts against the Astros, for whom he pitched during the 2016 season. He is 3-7 with a 4.56 ERA in 17 career starts at Minute Maid Park. Fister won his Rangers debut against Houston, surrendering one run, four hits and three walks with three strikeouts in five innings of a 5-1 victory on March 30 at Globe Life Park.
Texas (16-24) welcomed back second baseman Rougned Odor from the 10-day disabled list in the series opener. Odor finished 0-for-3 after missing 27 games with a left hamstring strain. Texas manager Jeff Banister indicated that he will initially work in some rest days for Odor, although the primary plan is to keep Odor on schedule relative to his normal playing time.
“Rougie is a major-league player,” Banister said. “He’s going to play. He’s ready to go.”
Rookie Isiah Kiner-Falefa picked up 25 starts with Odor sidelined, including 17 at second base. The Rangers aim to keep Kiner-Falefa active in a utility role, taking advantage of his versatility as an infielder.
“Kiner will play,” Banister said. “He’ll play second, he’ll play short, he’ll play third. He’s not going to be a starting, everyday player. He started every day for a month. We like what we’ve seen from him. He’s been very good defensively for us in all three spots that we’ve put him in. He’s run the bases well, he’s put together some really nice, professional at-bats.”