The Astros welcomed back starting second baseman Jose Altuve to their lineup for Tuesday’s series opener against the Rangers at Minute Maid Park. Altuve had been on the injured list since spraining his right knee sliding into a base Sept. 3 against the Rangers in Houston. The Astros went 2-9 with Altuve out of the lineup.
“I was putting in a lot of work in the training room and the gym, getting some strength in the knee and running a little bit and doing little things to help me get healthy and 100% to be back on the field,” said Altuve, who’s slashing .224/.284/.322 in 35 games this season, with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Tuesday will mark the first time since Aug. 6 that the Astros will have George Springer, Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the lineup at the same time. Each missed time with injuries since, but they are healthy for the final playoff push. The Astros entered Tuesday 1 1/2 games ahead of the Mariners for a playoff spot, though Houston has the season tiebreaker.
“I think we have a lot of confidence,” Altuve said. “We know the kind of players we have, and we’ve just got to go game by game and win a game at a time, and I know we’ll be fine.”
To make room for Altuve, the Astros optioned right-handed pitcher Humberto Castellanos to the alternate training site in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Verlander to face hitters
Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, who hasn’t seen any game action since suffering a right forearm strain on Opening Day, will take another huge step toward his return when he faces hitters on Wednesday morning at Minute Maid Park, manager Dusty Baker said.
Verlander has thrown off the mound twice in the last week, including 55-60 pitches on Saturday. Baker estimated that Verlander will throw about the same number of pitches Wednesday while facing hitters Abraham Toro, Myles Straw and Jack Mayfield.
“It would be nice to see in person,” said Baker, who hasn’t seen Verlander work since he threw six strong innings on July 24 in a win against the Mariners.
Verlander wound up on the 10-day injured list two days later, and he recently began throwing after a long period of rest.
The Astros are hoping to have Verlander -- the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner -- back for the final week of the regular season as well as the playoffs. Last year, he had one of the best seasons of his career, going 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA, 300 strikeouts and a 0.80 WHIP over 34 starts in 223 innings.