HOUSTON -- Tropical Storm Laura could be headed to Houston as a hurricane this week, and the Astros have adjusted their schedule in order to give them the best chance to complete their series with the Angels before the storm arrives.
Major League Baseball announced a shuffling of the four-game series between the Astros and Angels at Minute Maid Park this week. On Tuesday, they’ll play a doubleheader beginning at 3:05 p.m. CT. Wednesday’s game, originally moved from an 8:10 p.m. CT start time to 12:10, has been rescheduled as part of a doubleheader on Sept. 5 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Thursday, which was to be the series finale, will now be an off-day.
The two games of the doubleheader will be seven innings each, per 2020 rules enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB said it will continue to track the storm and provide an update if further changes to the schedule become necessary.
The Athletics are scheduled to fly to Houston this weekend for a three-game set with the Astros beginning Friday. A’s manager Bob Melvin told reporters earlier on Monday that he had not heard anything on a status change for the series.
Though all games in a 60-game season are of great importance, Astros manager Dusty Baker had his eye on this homestand in particular, given that his team will be playing only games versus teams within the division. The Astros entered play Monday 4 1/2 games behind the first-place A’s. They end the homestand with three games against the Rangers.
“This is big,” Baker said. “You look on the schedule and you see sometimes [homestands] are larger than others and this is definitely one of the larger ones.
“We will be at the halfway point after tomorrow's game. Hopefully we can finish here in the first half -- so to speak -- strong, and then start the second half strong.”
Baker said right-hander Cristian Javier will start the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader. The starter for the second game will be determined at a later time.
The Astros will be permitted to activate an extra player for the doubleheader, and Baker said that will most likely be right-hander Humberto Castellanos, who was optioned to the alternate site on Sunday following a three-inning relief stint in the Astros’ 13-2 loss the night before.
This isn’t the first time in recent history the Astros have had to deal with weather chaos wreaking havoc on their schedule. On Sept. 11, 2008, they were finishing up a series with the Pirates when reports forecasted Hurricane Ike heading their way within the next two days. Roy Oswalt threw a shutout in a 6-0 win that took only two hours and eight minutes to complete, and the Pirates were able to leave town that night without incident.
Hurricane Ike hit Houston around 2 a.m. the night of Sept. 12-13. With most of the roads in Houston impassable and much of the city flooded, the Astros and Cubs moved their series to Miller Park in Milwaukee, where they played two games.
The Astros were on the road when storms from Hurricane Harvey reached Houston late in August 2017. The Astros and Rangers, scheduled to play a three-game set at Minute Maid Park Aug. 29-31, instead completed the series at Tropicana Field.
According to Baker, Justin Verlander threw 20 pitches on Sunday and “felt pretty good.” Verlander is attempting to recover from a forearm strain he sustained in late July.
“Reports said he felt good,” Baker said. “So that’s a positive sign.”
De Jong joins ‘pen
Reliever Chase De Jong, who was called up on Sunday from the alternate training site, has experience pitching at Minute Maid Park. It’s a memory he can chuckle about now, even saying to reporters on Zoom, “I made it two weeks before anybody brought that up. That’s a lot longer than I thought it would be.”
De Jong, who started this season with the Sugar Land Skeeters, made his big league debut on April 5, 2017, as a member of Seattle’s bullpen. With the Mariners up by a run in the 13th inning, De Jong gave up a three-run homer to George Springer, sending the Astros to a 5-3 win.
“I got two outs,” De Jong chuckled. “I haven't talked to George about it or anything like that. But just like I said at the end of that game, I got to pitch in the big leagues that day, and it was the first time in my life, and I take it with a grain of salt. It was still a really cool moment to be able to get out there and play.”