Houston has lost back-to-back games

Astros drop opener to Twins on rough inning by Valdez

Framber Valdez's poor second inning gave the Twins a lead they wouldn't give up on Thursday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After dropping the second of two games in LA for the split with the Dodgers to end their recent road trip, the Astros returned home to welcome in the Twins for a four-game series. The opener would not go their way, as Minnesota would have a big inning, making the difference in the loss for the home team.

Final Score: Twins 5, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 65-44, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (7-3)

Losing Pitcher: Griffin Jax (2-1)

Valdez's poor second inning proves costly

Whether from getting into Houston in the early hours of the morning from Los Angeles or just general sluggishness, the Astros' offense did not look themselves in Thursday's opener. They had only two baserunners in the first five innings, a first-inning single, and a fifth-inning walk.

Jason Castro put Houston on the board with a leadoff solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, but by then, it mattered little, as the Twins had already done their damage against Framber Valdez. It came in the top of the second, a four-run frame for Minnesota on five hits to jump out to the significant early lead. Valdez rebound from that poor inning, getting into the seventh inning without allowing more runs to score. His final line: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 107 P.

Astros drop the opener

As far as Houston's bullpen, Yimi Garcia came in to finish the seventh for Valdez, giving up a walk before getting a strikeout to end the inning. After him, the Astros leaned on Cristian Javier, who tossed the eighth and ninth, allowing a run in the eighth to make it 5-1. In the bottom of the ninth, still a four-run deficit, Michael Brantley legged out an infield single to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who promptly delivered a two-run homer to cut the lead to two runs. That's as close as they'd come, though, despite getting the tying run base, as the Twins would hold on to take the opener to hand the Astros back-to-back losses.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Friday. The pitching matchup is expected to be Zack Greinke (10-3, 3.65 ERA) for the Astros and Bailey Ober (1-1, 4.94 ERA) for the Twins.

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With the end of the regular season in sight, the Houston Astros host the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, coming off a huge walk-off 2-1 win against the Orioles.

Two players from the finale against Baltimore really stood out for the 'Stros. Jeremy Pena, who had a clutch double late in the game, and Cristian Javier.

Javier struck out 11 batters over 5 innings surrendering only one run, which was exactly what the Astros needed in possibly the most important game of the regular season.

Both Pena and Javier were critical pieces to the Astros title in 2022, and it looks like they're rounding into form at just the right time.

Javier's struggles have caused many to question who would be the team's third starter in the postseason, behind Framber Valdez and Justin Verlander. Let's put this to bed right now, it's Javier.

This should be everything you need to know. Let's start with Hunter Brown. Brown has given up 5 earned runs or more in 4 of his last 7 starts.

How about JP France? France has surrendered 5 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 5 games.

However, Cristian Javier hasn't allowed 5 or more runs in a start since July 3. Javier may only give you 5 innings, but that's actually pretty common for starters in the playoffs. Teams typically remove their starters before the third time through the order.

Prime Time Pena

While the power hasn't been there for Pena this year, he is swinging the bat much better of late. Over his last 30 games, he's hitting .325 while slugging .453. Pena may only have 10 bombs on the year, but he's getting on base and hitting plenty of doubles.

If these two can contribute at a similar level to last postseason, the sky is the limit for the 2023 Astros.

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