Astros continue series vs. Angels without SS Correa
Correa (.238, 14 home runs, 62 RBIs) missed 36 games after landing on the 10-day disabled list on June 26. Presumed healthy upon his return, Correa has struggled instead, posting a .174/.257/.223 slash line with only four extra-base hits in 140 plate appearances since being reinstated from the DL on Aug. 10.
"I don't like it by any means, but it's just the reality for us," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Correa and his lingering back woes. "I think for Carlos to be who he is and what he can do for us we've got to get him to feel better.
"I'm not concerned that it's going to impact too much longer, but I don't like that one of our best players isn't feeling great."
That Correa, who slashed .315/.391/.550 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 109 games last season, initiated his slump well before going on the DL is another concern.
Correa last had an OPS above .900 on May 14. Since then, he owns a .205/.286/.328 line in 280 plate appearances.
"He's a perfectionist by nature so I think performance-wise he always wants to be elite," Hinch said. "From a comfort standpoint, he hasn't looked comfortable. He's been able to maintain that defensively, but it's looked like he's had a little bit of a governor on his swing when he's been up to bat.
"I haven't seen him let it go really since the time he's been off the DL.
"Of course it weighs on him. He wants to be out there, he wants to be good, he wants to hit in the middle of the order, he wants to lead us to a division title and beyond. He's frustrated."
Right-hander Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.67 ERA) will make what is tentatively scheduled to be his penultimate start of the season on Saturday for the Astros (96-57), who clinched a postseason berth with an 11-3 victory on Friday. With his next strikeout, Verlander will set a season career high of 270, eclipsing his previous best set in 2009.
After a rough August, Verlander has rebounded in September, going 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 21 innings and three starts. He is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA in four starts against the Angels this season and 12-9 with a 3.12 ERA in 24 career starts against them.
Right-hander Jaime Barria (10-9, 3.61 ERA) will make the 25th start of his rookie season and 12th on the road. He has an active streak of 15 scoreless innings away from Angel Stadium and has compiled a 2.53 ERA on the road. Barria is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts against the Astros this season.
About the only thing of interest that remains for the slumping Angels (75-79), who lost for the sixth time in eight games, is the pursuit by All-Star center fielder Mike Trout of a third American League Most Valuable Player award. Trout, the league MVP in 2014 and 2016 and runner-up in 2012, 2013 and 2015, clubbed his 37th home run in the series opener.
Trout has homered in consecutive games and four times in the last five games to move to within four homers of his career high of 41 set in 2015. He finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs after entering the weekend leading the majors in on-base percentage (.463), slugging (.629), OPS (1.092), and adjusted OPS (199).
"Nah, I don't even pay attention to it,' Trout said of the MVP chase. "I'm just trying to finish strong and don't give up any at-bats because they're running out."