Short-handed Astros prep for visit from Cubs
The frustration from Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch was palpable, and not solely from the uneven performance that yielded an unfavorable result Sunday at home against Boston.
His team's health -- as it prepares for the opener of a three-game interleague set Monday against the visiting Chicago Cubs -- was a bigger factor.
For a second consecutive weekend, the Astros proved unable to complete a series sweep of the Red Sox, falling on consecutive Sundays after having already clinched the three-game series. Of note in this series finale was the loss of utility infielder Aledmys Diaz, who, while scoring in the first inning, aggravated a left hamstring strain that sidelined him for several days earlier this month.
According to Hinch, Diaz is likely to land on the 10-day injured list after avoiding it initially.
Diaz will join Jose Altuve (hamstring), George Springer (hamstring) and Max Stassi (knee) on the IL, with Springer and Stassi lost in the games preceding Diaz going down Sunday.
"I'm most frustrated about losing another player," Hinch said. "I don't like the back-to-back days where you lose a player, so I'm irritated."
Said Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, who took the 4-1 loss to the Red Sox: "It sucks to see guys going down like that. It's just a punch in the gut anytime another guy goes down but you've got to keep it going. That's baseball. Nobody is going to be sorry for us, not in that other dugout anyway. So we've got to find ways to win ball games.
"I think we have the talent even without some of the best players on the planet in our lineup. Those guys make you better, but you look at the guys that have stepped in and they've done a tremendous job."
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (4-5, 4.11 ERA) gets the start for the Astros in the series opener against the Cubs. Cole has worked just five innings each in his two previous starts, going 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and an .889 OPS allowed.
Cole, who leads the majors in strikeouts (100) and strikeout rate (37.7 percent), is 9-3 with a 2.50 ERA over 14 career starts against the Cubs, having faced them regularly during five years in Pittsburgh. His 15th start against Chicago on Monday will mark his most against any opponent.
Left-hander Cole Hamels (4-0, 3.38 ERA) will start for Chicago on Memorial Day. The Cubs have won each of Hamels' three previous starts, with Hamels going 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 16 innings during that stretch.
Hamels is 8-6 with a 4.08 ERA over 20 career starts against the Astros, including a 1-2 mark and 3.60 ERA over four starts last season.
In the Cubs, the Astros will face another legit title contender, although Chicago has slumped of late, falling for the third time in four games with a 10-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on Sunday. After the Cubs and Astros won World Series in successive seasons (2016-17), this matchup would have moved the needle last season. It still offers ample intrigue.
"I'm looking forward to it," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "They're good. I think we're good. As this thing moves forward, like I've said before, I'm really jacked up about all this stuff. I'm really having a good time. I like the fact we're playing good teams."
Maddon said Kris Bryant, who left Sunday's loss in the sixth inning after taking a hit near his head in a collision with Jason Heyward on a fly ball, remains under evaluation. It's unclear if Bryant will play Monday.
--Field Level Media
Updated May 27, 2019