Preview: Twins at Astros
After managing little against Ervin Santana last weekend, the Houston Astros didn’t have to wait long for another shot at the Minnesota Twins right-hander.
Hoping for a better performance this time, the Astros will try to add to Santana’s recent road struggles Saturday night.
Following a six-start stretch in which he went 0-4 with a 9.20 ERA, Santana (3-4, 5.40 ERA) gave up six hits, struck out a season-high 10 and didn’t issue a walk in seven scoreless innings of Sunday’s 7-5 victory over Houston (74-61).
"I’ve been smiling, but don’t get it wrong, I’ve been frustrated," Santana said. "I knew I could pitch better than (those previous starts)."
His teammates hope that his effort against the Astros is the beginning of good things to come for the veteran.
"Hopefully it’ll be a confidence booster for the next time he goes out," said Twins catcher Chris Hermann.
Making his first career appearance at Minute Maid Park, Santana now must improve his work on the road, where he’s gone 0-3 with a 9.64 ERA in his last four starts. He went 2-0 with an 0.76 ERA in the first three.
Lance McCullers (5-5, 3.21), meanwhile, tries to improve on a 4-0 record and 1.65 ERA in eight home starts this season. The right-hander also gets another chance at Santana after he walked four and gave up three runs in six innings last Sunday.
McCullers looks to help the Astros build on Friday’s 8-0 rout of Minnesota (69-65). Collin McHugh threw 7 2/3 strong innings and Hank Conger hit his second grand slam this season as Houston avoided a third consecutive home defeat.
With his career-high 10th homer, Conger is the 10th Astros player with at least that many this season – breaking the franchise record of nine set in 2000. With one more home run by Marwin Gonzalez, Houston would tie Detroit’s major league mark of 11 from 2004.
"When you got guys down in the order hitting double-digit home runs that are part-time players, that’s a pretty unique roster to have," Astros manager A.J. Hinch told MLB’s official website. "You know clearly we’ve got power throughout and we’ve had guys come up through the minor leagues and hit for power, and it’s a good achievement."
Batting leadoff, George Springer went 1 for 4 in his first game since landing on the disabled list with a broken wrist July 2.
"I don’t have any hesitation putting him back in the lineup, at the top," Hinch said about Springer, who had 13 homers and 29 RBI in 75 games before the injury. "The offense functioned very well with him at the top. He’s a dynamic player. I’d like to get his energy kick-started from the very beginning."
Hitting in the middle of Houston’s order, Jed Lowrie is 8 for 14 with four doubles in four games since going 0 for 26 in his previous eight. He’s 2 for 10 against Santana, but both hits were doubles.
Joe Mauer had two of the seven hits Friday by Minnesota, which has dropped two in a row after winning 10 of 12. Mauer’s hitting .370 in seven games at Minute Maid Park.