Houston lost three of four

Astros drop finale to Twins as Minnesota takes the series

Astros' Yordan Alvarez
Houston's offense once again came up short of the Twins on Sunday, dropping three of four in the series. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Houston's offense once again came up short of the Twins on Sunday, dropping three of four in the series.

After rebounding out of their three-game losing streak with a win on Saturday, the Astros tried to work a series split with another victory on Sunday. Instead, the Twins would once again hand them disappointment, handing Houston another loss.

Final Score: Twins 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 66-46, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Kenta Maeda (5-4)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-3)

Houston strikes first before Twins get to McCullers Jr.

After a scoreless top half of the inning by Lance McCullers Jr., the Astros plated a run in the bottom of the first. They put the first two runners on base on a single and a walk, setting up an RBI single by Aledmyz Diaz to take a 1-0 lead. The twins responded quickly, getting that run back to tie the game in the top of the second on a two-out RBI single. McCullers Jr. rebounded with a scoreless third, but in the fourth, issued a leadoff walk which proved costly with a two-run homer in the next at-bat to put Minnesota ahead 3-1.

Despite allowing two singles, he finished that inning and received a run from his offense on an RBI single by Taylor Jones in the bottom half but was met with a leadoff solo homer in the top of the fifth to give it right back. He would get two outs while loading the bases on a single, walk, and hit by pitch, leaving with two outs as Dusty Baker would bring in Phil Maton to finish the inning. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2 HR, 89 P.

Twins expand their lead

Houston crept back into it in the bottom of the fifth, getting a runner on third to set up an RBI single by Yordan Alvarez to make it a one-run game at 4-3. Minnesota quickly took back the momentum, putting up a single and a walk against Maton before a three-run homer put them firmly back in front 7-3. Maton would face just one more batter before Blake Taylor would enter to try and finish the frame, which he would do by stranding the bases loaded after allowing two singles and a walk but escaping damage.

Rafael Montero took over in the top of the seventh, tossing the first 1-2-3 inning of the day for Houston. The Astros tried starting a rally in the bottom of the seventh, getting Jake Meyer's first MLB hit on a two-out double, followed by an RBI double by Aledmys Diaz to cut the lead to 7-4. Montero remained in the game in the top of the eighth, getting two outs and allowing a walk before experiencing an injury that would take him out of the game. Yimi Garcia made the quick entry and finished off the frame.

Astros lose the series

Carlos Correa got his team another run closer, leading the bottom of the eighth off with a solo homer to make it 7-5. With two outs, Dusty Baker went to his bench, using Jose Altuve to pinch-hit who, to that point, had the day off. Altuve worked a walk to bring the tying run to the plate, another pinch hitter, Jason Castro, who struck out to end the inning. After a 1-2-3 top of the ninth by Garcia, the Astros would come up empty in the bottom of the inning, dropping three of four to the Twins to lose the series.

Up Next: Houston will enjoy a day off on Monday before the Rockies come to Houston for a two-game series starting Wednesday at 7:10 PM Central. In the opener, the expected pitching matchup is Jon Gray (7-7, 3.67 ERA) for Colorado and Jake Odorizzi (4-6, 4.95 ERA) for the Astros.

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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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