Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, cleared Friday from Major League Baseball's health and safety protocols, might be back in the lineup at some point this weekend as the Astros continue their four-game series with the visiting Los Angeles Angels.
The Astros captured the first two games of the series, 8-2 on Thursday and 5-4 in 10 innings Friday. The teams meet again Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon.
Altuve worked out with the club Friday, then departed the ballpark before to the game, but his appearance in the weight room and on the field provided a spark. The former American League MVP last appeared in a game on April 13.
"We're very excited to have him back," Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. "He went straight to the cage trying to get that timing, that swing back right away. I can't wait to have him back in the lineup."
Altuve has missed eight games, and the Astros are being careful with his ramp-up. He participated in fielding drills and batting practice.
"I don't know when we'll realistically activate him," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "First we've got to see what kind of shape he's in. I don't care who you are, it's hard to come out of the bed and start playing without taking the risk of hurting him."
Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (0-2, 10.57 ERA) will get the start for the Astros on Saturday against Angels right-hander Griffin Canning (1-1, 5.68).
Odorizzi took his second loss in as many appearances on Sunday, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings in a 7-2 setback against the Seattle Mariners.
It marked the longest outing, most pitches (89) and most strikeouts in a game for Odorizzi since Sept. 24, 2019. That start against the Detroit Tigers marked his last victory.
Odorizzi is 1-3 with a 5.05 ERA over seven career starts against the Angels.
Canning will make his third start of the season, all of them on the road. His previous appearance came in relief at home against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, with Canning allowing two runs on two hits with two strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings.
He surrendered two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts over five innings in his previous start, a 6-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on April 14.
Canning has not recorded a decision in three career starts against the Astros, posting a 6.35 ERA and 11 strikeouts and 10 walks in 11 1/3 innings. Saturday will mark his first start in Houston.
The Angels hope to bounce back after blowing a pair of two-run leads on Friday. They squandered an outstanding pitching performance from left-hander Andrew Heaney, who allowed just a run on two hits while recording a season-high 10 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings.
Heaney departed with a 2-0 lead in the seventh, only for reliever Aaron Slegers to surrender a game-tying, two-run home run to Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel three pitches later.
The Angels seemed to survive that dramatic turn by scoring twice in the top of the 10th inning, but they yielded three runs in the bottom half of the frame for the walk-off loss.
Los Angeles recorded 13 hits and generated 18 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Their pitchers totaled 13 strikeouts without issuing a walk, yet those gaudy statistics didn't produce a favorable result.
"Everything set up perfectly again," Angels manager Joe Maddon said, "and we just didn't finish it up."
--Field Level Media