HOUSTON -- It was only a week ago the Astros were in a bit of a dilemma, at least as much as the Astros can be these days. They were desperately seeking healthy and effective starting pitching at the bottom of their rotation while entering what turned out to be
HOUSTON -- It was only a week ago the Astros were in a bit of a dilemma, at least as much as the Astros can be these days. They were desperately seeking healthy and effective starting pitching at the bottom of their rotation while entering what turned out to be an emotionally charged series against the Angels in Anaheim.
The Astros dropped the first two games in California and held a team meeting after Angels pitcher Noe Ramirez threw at Jake Marisnick on Tuesday in retaliation for a home-plate collision earlier that sent Jonathan Lucroy to the injured list. Suddenly, the mighty Astros seemed a tad bit vulnerable, having lost four of their first six after the All-Star break.
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But clutch pitching performances from Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley in Anaheim calmed the waters, and the Astros restored order by sweeping the Rangers, capped by Sunday’s 5-3 win at Minute Maid Park -- Houston’s fifth in a row.
“I like where we’re at right now,” Astros second baseman José Altuve said.
And better news lies ahead for the Astros, who should get injured infielders Aledmys Díaz and Carlos Correa back from the injured list this week. That will give them a completely healthy lineup for the first time since rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez joined the club June 9. Diaz, out since late May with a strained left hamstring, could return as early as Monday’s series opener against the A’s, who are 6 1/2 games out. Correa is set to return Friday.
“Everybody is anticipating Aledmys and Carlos coming back at some point,” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “Guys that are huge members of the team, you look forward to it. I try not to look too far ahead. I owe it to the guys inside to just play the roster that we have and keep those guys motivated. It will be nice to get some of our players back.”
Houston’s pitching lines up nicely for the A’s series, too. The Astros will throw rotation stalwarts Cole, Miley and Justin Verlander at Oakland after rookies Jose Urquidy and Rogelio Armenteros stabilized the rotation with strong performances on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
“Huge back-to-back performances,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “It was a great sweep. They came up huge for us this week and now it’s about time to start getting on a roll."
Armenteros, making his first Major League start, held the Rangers to two hits and one run Sunday while striking out six batters in five innings for his first career win. Urquidy was called up Saturday and struck out nine in seven dominating innings for his first career win. The Astros used openers in those slots in the rotation the first two games in Anaheim and lost both.
For Armenteros to give us five was huge, to be effective and mix his pitches,” Hinch said. “I thought he did a good job of utilizing his breaking ball today. His fastball was good and really pitched out of the only jam he was in. It was huge for us. We want to win, and we need good starting pitching to put together a string of wins, and the last couple of days showed that.”
The Astros backed up Armenteros with three homers, including two by Michael Brantley (3-for-3). He hit a two-run shot in the first inning off Lance Lynn and added a solo blast in the eighth for a 5-2 lead. Altuve also homered for the Astros in the fifth off Lynn, who struck out 12 batters in seven innings.
“We’re playing good baseball. ... It felt good to sweep against somebody in the division," Brantley said. "We’re doing it as a team, doing it so one guy doesn't have to carry this team. It’s fun to come to this field every day and compete.”
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.