Houston falls to Minnesota

Garcia's winning streak ends as Twins even series with Astros

Astros' Luis Garcia
Luis Garcia's winning streak came to an end Saturday night at the hands of the Twins. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Luis Garcia's winning streak came to an end Saturday night at the hands of the Twins.

After getting a late rally to power past the Twins in the opener, the Astros hoped to keep that momentum alive going into Saturday's middle game to secure the series win. Instead, the Twins grabbed the momentum, putting up enough runs against Luis Garcia to even the series.

Final Score: Twins 5, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 36-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Berrios (7-2)

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (5-4)

Garcia runs into trouble to end his winning streak

After three scoreless innings on both sides, Minnesota would figure out Luis Garcia in the bottom of the fourth. They started the scoring for the evening with a two-out RBI double, then knocked Garcia out of the game in the bottom of the fifth with another RBI double followed by a two-run homer to go in front 4-0. That snapped Garcia's streak of five straight games in which he recorded a win, leaving this one in line for the loss, hoping for his offense to bail him out. His final line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 84 P.

Astros launch a couple of homers but come up short to even the series

Blake Taylor came in from the bullpen as Houston's first reliever, finishing the fifth for Garcia, then returned for a 1-2-3 bottom of the sixth, retiring all five batters he faced. Houston cut the lead in half in the top of the seventh, getting back-to-back solo homers by Kyle Tucker and Robel Garcia, making it 4-2 when Brooks Raley took over on the mound in the bottom of the inning.

Minnesota put one run back on the board against him, getting a leadoff double then later an RBI single. Raley would face four batters while getting two outs before being lifted for Nivaldo Rodriguez. Rodriguez issued a four-pitch walk to his first batter, then hit the next with a pitch to load the bases, but Michael Brantley would make a great catch to save some runs to end the inning and strand all three runners.

Rodriguez walked and hit another batter in the bottom of the eighth but had solid defense behind him again to get through a scoreless frame to keep it 5-2. That score would go final, though, as Houston would get turned away at the plate in the top of the ninth, evening the series and setting up a rubber match on Sunday in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game series between the Astros and Twins, as well as Houston's last game of the road trip, will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Framber Valdez (2-0, 1.47 ERA) will go up against Michael Pineda (3-3, 3.46 ERA).

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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