Preview: Twins vs. Astros
Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario will be back in the Minnesota Twins' lineup Wednesday afternoon when they wrap up a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Target Field.
Manager Paul Molitor stacked his lineup with right-handed hitters against Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel, which meant Kepler and Rosario along with catcher Jason Castro had Tuesday's 4-1 win off.
The Astros send right-hander Lance McCullers to the mound for the finale, so Molitor will have his usual lineup -- which also includes third baseman Miguel Sano, who leads the team with eight RBIs and has also hit three home runs this season.
He struck out three times on Tuesday, marking his fourth game with at least three strikeouts in nine starts this season, but Molitor is not concerned and does not plan to give Sano a rest.
"We've seen, even in at-bats that have been strikeouts, a lot of them have been pretty good," Molitor said. "He's been taking walks and seeing seven or eight pitches on his at-bats, too. Given that we haven't had consistent games and the production has been decent. When we've needed a good at-bat, he's given it to me."
Molitor also pointed to the Twins' schedule so far, which has included multiple off-days, and the not-exactly-tropical weather conditions in Minneapolis during the team's current homestand.
"We just haven't really settled into consistent at-bats and consistent play and conducive conditions," Molitor said. "Keep grinding. Hold your own as best you can until we can get used to playing day in and day out, which we haven't done yet."
Byron Buxton has been struggling, too. He went 1-for-4 Tuesday and is hitting .171, though he missed a homer by mere inches Monday.
"I feel like I've been in a pretty good spot all year," Buxton said. "My comfortability is there, confidence is there. It's just not falling our way yet. That's baseball. Eventually things are going to start falling our way."
Sano is hitless in four career at-bats while Buxton is 2-for-4 lifetime against McCullers. McCullers is 0-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against Minnesota but did not face the Twins last season.
He took the loss his last time out, allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits over five innings in a 4-1 loss to the San Diego Padres. McCullers struck out seven and walked three in his second start of the season.
"I'm in a good place," McCullers said. "If I stay where I am right now, and my curveball gets better as the season goes like it usually does, and I work in my changeup a little bit better, I'm going to be in a good place."
Minnesota counters with right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 0.87 ERA), whose 65 starts are the most in Target Field history.
He threw six hitless innings in his season debut in Baltimore on March 31. Gibson couldn't get out of the fifth his last time out, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings while throwing 80 pitches to 23 hitters in a 4-2 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
Gibson has made five career starts against Houston, going 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA in those contests. Against the Astros, Gibson has struck out 21 with 13 walks in 29 1/3 innings.
Houston got the best of him in their last meeting, scoring four runs on six hits over six innings on July 16 of last season.