Astros fall back below .500

McCullers Jr. impressive in return, but Rangers blank Astros in pitcher's duel

Astros Lance McCullers Jr.
Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Astros Lance McCullers Jr.

After taking the opener thanks to timely hits and a great outing from their starter, the Astros resumed play on Wednesday with the Rangers trying to lock up the series win. Here is a quick rundown of the middle game of the three-game series:

Final Score: Rangers 1, Astros 0.

Record: 24-25, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Kyle Gibson (2-5, 5.18 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Ryan Pressly (1-3, 4.00 ERA).

An unexpected pitcher's duel

Wednesday's game would unfold as an unexpected pitcher's duel. For the Astros, Lance McCullers Jr. made an excellent return from the IL, going seven full shutout innings while allowing just two hits. Those two hits were the Rangers' only baserunners over those seven innings. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 86 P.

Pressly allows the winning run as Gibson tosses the complete-game shutout

After McCullers Jr, Josh James entered and worked around a two-out single for a scoreless eighth. Ryan Pressly was on for the ninth, trying to keep the game scoreless to provide Houston with a walk-off chance. Instead, a leadoff single would later result in the first run of the game on a two-out double just inside the foul line down the first-base side to give Texas a 1-0 lead in the top of the ninth.

Pressly walked his next batter, prompting another call to the bullpen to bring in Enoli Paredes. Paredes would get the final out of the frame with a strikeout. The run allowed by Pressly would be the only of the game, as the Astros would come up empty in the bottom half, dropping the middle game of the series as Kyle Gibson would toss a complete-game shutout against the Astros to get the win.

Up Next: The series finale between these two teams will start a bit earlier on Thursday, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 PM Central. Framber Valdez (3-3, 4.08 ERA) will make another start for the Astros, while Jordan Lyles (1-4, 7.80 ERA) will be on the mound for the Rangers.

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Justin Verlander is heading to the injured list. Composite Getty Image.

Astros ace Justin Verlander missed his start over the weekend due to neck discomfort, which had many fans concerned. The last Houston pitcher (Cristian Javier) to miss time with the same injury would end up out for the season and having to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Fortunately, it doesn't look like that will be the case for JV, and the team didn't anticipate having to put Verlander on IR. They hoped he would be able to start Thursday's game in Chicago.

But manager Joe Espada told the Astros flagship station on Tuesday that his progress “is slower than we expected.”

Fast-forward a few hours and JV is headed to the IL, with Nick Hernandez joining the club from Sugar Land.

Hopefully, this is just a short stint on the injured list for Verlander. Quite frankly, the Astros are running out of big league caliber starting pitching options.

One has to wonder, how many more injuries the team can sustain in 2024? The injury bug is biting hard, and the club is currently nine games behind Seattle in the AL West.

Up next

Framber Valdez takes the mound for Houston against the White Sox on Tuesday night.

The Athletic's Chandler Rome shares some possibilities the Astros might explore to replace Verlander in the post below.

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