Houston Astros manager Bo Porter feels his rotation has started to give the team a shot at overcoming its offensive shortcomings to win some games.
Those shortcomings might not be as prevalent had the Astros won the Jose Abreu sweepstakes in the offseason.They'll see the Chicago White Sox rookie first baseman up close for the first time as Collin McHugh tries to keep the Astros' arms trending in the right direction Friday night in the opener of a three-game series in Houston.The Astros (14-27) were one of the other serious contenders to sign Abreu, who has 15 home runs and 41 RBIs in his first 42 games."I hope to see him walking back to the dugout more than circling the bases," general manager Jeff Luhnow told the Astros' official website. "When a player like that gets so much fanfare, it's going to be fun for our fans to see him in person."The prospects of their pitching staff holding him down seem to be improving. In the last 10 games, Houston starters have posted a 3.15 ERA after struggling though April and early May with a 4.56 mark."Our starters have done a tremendous job," Porter said. "Just like hitting's contagious, when starting pitchers start to roll over quality starts like these guys are rolling them off, it becomes a competition within in the group."Houston, in search of its first three-game winning streak, won the last two of a three-game series with Texas as hints of offensive consistency have started to arise.The Astros have matched a season high with 11 hits in five straight games, a .299 stretch that has boosted their season average to .229 after posting a .210 April mark.McHugh (2-1, 2.81 ERA) entered the rotation in the midst of those struggles and dazzled in his first two starts before cooling off some in his next two. In Saturday's 5-4 loss at Baltimore, the right-hander surrendered two runs in 6 1/3 innings while not receiving a decision.He's never faced the White Sox (20-22), who are among the major league leaders with 46 home runs, but knows Abreu & Co. possess some pop at the plate."I've seen him just about everywhere," McHugh said of Abreu. "He's a good hitter. They have a couple of guys in the lineup who can really swing it with some power."It was that power that effectively ended Chicago's four-game losing streak as Abreu connected on a three-run shot in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 4-2 win in Oakland."We realize what he is and how important he is to us," manager Robin Ventura said. "When you get in situations like that you're pretty glad he's up there."Gordon Beckham led off the game with a home run, finishing 3 for 4 to boost his average in his last nine games to .378. Conor Gillaspie also went 3 for 4 and is batting .359 in his last 11.The trio at the top of Chicago's order will now try to back Jose Quintana (1-3, 3.67), who is winless in his last six starts. The left-hander yielded three runs over six innings in Saturday's 4-3 home defeat to Arizona.In two career starts against Houston, he has a 3.65 ERA without a decision. Astros top hitter Jose Altuve, who is batting .419 on a seven-game hitting streak, is 1 for 7 with four strikeouts against Quintana.