Stellar pitching leads Astros to 3 consecutive series wins

Astros Cristian Javier, Lance McCullers, Jose Urquidy
The Astros (15-13) finished the week with a 5-2 record. Composite image by Jack Brame.

After starting the season with a 7-10 record and getting swept by the Colorado Rockies, the Astros are starting to find their winning ways again.

The Astros started a four game series with the Mariners on Monday, April 26th which saw the return of Jose Altuve after testing positive for COVID-19.

During the stretch that Altuve was out, Houston manager Dusty Baker used a couple different options at the leadoff spot that included Myles Straw, Kyle Tucker and Carlos Correa.

Once Altuve returned to the lineup, he was able to contribute immediately by hitting a single and stealing his first base of the season.

"I was really happy to be back and a little nervous my first at-bat," he said. "But all in all I feel pretty good and I'm happy that we won this game."

Altuve finished the game with three hits and two RBI as the Astros beat the Mariners in the first game of the series 5-2.

Pitcher Jose Urquidy picked up his first win of the season as well.

The second game of the series was a showcase game for Cristian Javier as he threw 7 scoreless innings and gave up only two hits to help the Astros secure a 2-0 victory.

Relief pitchers Brooks Raley and Ryan Pressly both pitched scoreless innings to secure the 2-hit shutout.

Pressly earned saves on back-to-back nights to increase his save total to 3 this season thus far.

The two runs were scored on a Yordan Alvarez sacrifice fly and a Kyle Tucker RBI single.

The final two games of the series saw the aforementioned Alvarez head again to the injured list due to health and safety protocols. The second time in a month in which he was placed on the IL for this reason.

This forced Michael Brantley to take over as the designated hitter and Chas McCormick to start in left field.

Wednesday's game saw Astros' pitcher Zack Greinke leave after four innings as he gave up four runs on four hits. (His shortest outing of the season.)

The Astros were down 3-5 in the bottom of the 8th when Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel got back-to-back singles.

Mariners first basemen Evan White committed an error which scored Kyle Tucker.

Aledmys Diaz singled to score Gurriel and tie the game later in the inning.

Jason Castro walked with the bases loaded to give the Astros a 6-5 lead and Jose Altuve got an insurance run as he hit a sacrifice fly to increase the Astros lead 7-5.

As previously mentioned, Houston closer Ryan Pressly pitched on back-to-back days, so Ryne Stanek came in for his first save opportunity of the year.

He pitched a perfect 9th on 12 pitches to earn his first save of the year.

Thursday's afternoon game was one to be forgotten as the Mariners won the final game of the series 1-0.

Luis Garcia (0-3) gave up only one run, but received his third consecutive loss in three straight starts.

The Astros then headed to the East Coast for their third road trip of the season.

Friday saw the start of a three-game series in St. Petersburg, Florida to set up a 2020 ALCS rematch with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Lance McCullers started the series off with a bang as he pitched seven shutout innings and struck out a personal season-high nine batters.

This is the second consecutive game McCullers has pitched more than five innings, and this start was his longest outing of the young season.

The Astros received a lot of run support as both Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley got four hits each, and Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer to help secure Houston's 9-2 victory.

Dusty Baker earned his 1,906th managerial victory Friday night, thus moving him past Casey Stengel for 12th place on the all-time win list for managers.

Saturday's game saw more of the same from the Astros, shutdown pitching with timely hitting.

Houston got off to a 3-0 lead and never looked back.

After going 0-5 the previous night, Jose Altuve doubled on the first pitch of the game to set the tone for that inning.

Alex Bregman hit an RBI single which scored Altuve, and Gurriel drove in two runs on a single later in the inning, therefore giving the Astros their three runs of the game.

Pitcher Jose Urquidy pitched his best game of the season as he threw seven shutout innings to earn his second win of the year on his 26th birthday.

Brooks Raley and Ryan Pressly closed out the game.

Raley pitched a perfect 8th inning, and Pressly earned his 4th save of the season.

Sunday's final game of the series saw Cristian Javier attempt to earn his fourth win of the season.

He pitched four shutout innings before giving up a three-run homer to Austin Meadows in the 5th which tied the game.

Javier left the game with a no decision, as the Rays went on to score two more runs to earn a 5-4 win over the Astros to avoid getting swept.

Yordan Alvarez hit his third home run of the season along with a double this game to keep his batting average over .300 for the season.

Even though Houston lost Sunday, they have now won three consecutive series in a row over the Angels, Mariners and Rays.

The Astros (15-13) finished the week with a 5-2 record and currently sit in third place in their division behind the Mariners and the Oakland A's.

UP NEXT: The Astros start a three-game series in the Bronx against the New York Yankees to finish off their road trip.

Zack Greinke (2-1) will start the series opening game Tuesday night against Domingo German (2-2) at 6:05 p.m. The Astros are also scheduled to face Gerrit Cole for the first time since he left the team to join the Yankees via free agency on Thursday at 12:05 p.m.

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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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