PREVIEW: Astros try to avoid sweep in finale of three-game series vs. Twins

Apr 3, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros starting pitcher Hunter Brown (58) pitches against the Detroit Tigers in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Astros try to avoid sweep in finale of three-game series vs. Twins

The Houston Astros aren’t known as a team that strikes out a lot, but the Minnesota Twins are doing their best to change that perception.

Astros hitters have fanned 33 times in the last two games, which is a franchise record for a two-game span. Houston will look to reverse the trend when they face the Twins in the finale of a three-game series on Sunday in Minneapolis.

The Astros have dropped the first two games of the series and struck out 17 times in Saturday’s 9-6 loss, leaving manager Dusty Baker flustered.

“They’ve been striking us out, and we’re just not giving ourselves a chance,” Baker said. “We’ve got to get on their breaking balls and swing at the strikes. They’re pitching us tough.”

Byron Buxton and Kyle Farmer each blasted three-run homers to lead Minnesota on Saturday, while Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez hit his third career slam.

Minnesota’s much-improved starting rotation includes Pablo Lopez, Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Tyler Mahle, and Kenta Maeda. The team’s starters have completed at least five innings in all eight games.

“When you have guys going out there and throwing the hell out of the ball and looking strong at the end of their outings, commanding all of their pitches throughout, you want to watch them keep pitching,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That fires me up.”

Mahle (1-0, 1.80 ERA) is set to take the mound in the series finale. He won his first start of the season, pitching five innings and allowing one run, five hits with one walk, and seven strikeouts in the Twins’ 11-1 victory over the Miami Marlins last Monday.

Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at last season’s trade deadline, Mahle has made a positive impression on Baldelli.

“He’s stoic,” Baldelli said. “You get no feel for exactly how he’s doing by looking at his mannerisms or his facial expressions or anything like that. But he’s a guy who just continues to go out there and knows how to get outs.”

Mahle, 28, is facing the Astros for the second time in his career and for the first time since June 19, 2019, when he was a member of the Reds. He received a no-decision in that outing after allowing two runs over seven frames.

The Astros will counter with right-hander Hunter Brown (0-0, 7.71), who received a no-decision after allowing four runs over 4 2/3 innings in his season debut against the Detroit Tigers last Monday.

Brown, 24, yielded six hits and three walks with five strikeouts against the Tigers. Brown is considered a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year and has a strong advocate in Astros general manager Dana Brown.

“Overall, he has the total package of stuff and feel to pitch with good makeup and competitiveness,” Dana Brown said. “I’m all-in on Hunter Brown.”

Currently serving as Houston’s fifth starter, Brown is making his first career appearance against Minnesota.

The Twins will be without outfielder Max Kepler, who was placed on the 10-day injured list due to patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Minnesota recalled outfielder Matt Wallner from Triple-A St. Paul to replace Kepler on the 26-man roster.

The Twins are also monitoring the status of outfielder Joey Gallo, who is listed as day-to-day with soreness in his right side.

–Field Level Media

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