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Astros bats frozen in 1-0 loss to Twins

Odorizzi continues dominance of Houston, outduels Verlander

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The numbers suggested offense would be at a premium for both sides Monday night. Justin Verlander had a 3-0 record, 0.84 ERA, and 25 strikeouts in three starts against Minnesota since joining the Astros and 20-9 mark overall when facing the Twins. Jake Odorizzi, who allowed two runs in a victory against the Astros last week, entered with a 2.29 ERA and four wins in six career starts against Houston.

True to form, both pitchers were outstanding and a solo home run enabled Odorizzi to narrowly outduel Verlander and the Astros, 1-0.

Houston Astros v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Odorizzi (3-2, 3.34) tossed seven innings of shutout ball and stymied the Astros pretty much all night. He allowed four hits total and retired 13 straight batters before Alex Bregman drew a one-out walk in the top of sixth.

Michael Brantley followed Bregman with a single up the middle, but Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel struck out to end the inning.

Correa offered the Astros a dash of hope with a leadoff single to start the ninth. But he was quickly erased on a groundball double play from Gurriel. Blake Parker retired Josh Reddick on a weak grounder for the final out to register his sixth save of the season.

Although the cool temperatures certainly didn’t help matters, the Astros continue to be one of the least patient teams in MLB. For example, Bregman saw one fewer pitch (5) in his sixth-inning walk than the three Astros that stepped into the box in the fifth inning.

Houston entered the game with the highest team batting average in the Majors and was also Top 5 in slugging percentage, on-base percentage, and on-base plus slugging, and had the third-fewest strikeouts.

Yet, the Astros average just 3.83 pitches per plate appearance, second-fewest in the American League. That characteristic helped Odorizzi get quick outs and prolong his dominance of the Astros.

What’s bizarre is the Twins have been even less patient — they see the fewest pitches per plate appearance in the league (3.76). But on this night, the Twins effectively extended at-bats and made Verlander work to get outs. Verlander (4-1, 2.45) did have seven strikeouts and only allowed two hits, but he required 100 pitches to get through six innings.

Nonetheless, that makes four splendid starts in a row for Astros ace. Verlander has permitted just one run and a combined total of 11 hits in 27 innings with 34:5 K/BB ratio in his last four outings.

MLB: Houston Astros at Minnesota Twins Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

A concern, however, is that Verlander has allowed a home run in each of his outings this season, a year removed from surrendering 30 longballs. The solo home run from Ehire Adrianza — his first of the season and only his second RBI of 2019 — placed Verlander in rare company.

The loss ended a seven-game winning streak dating back to the 2018 regular season for the Astros’ ace.

Brantley had his AL-leading 13th opposite field hit in the top of the first inning. Teammate Josh Reddick went the other way to start the second inning to match Brantley for the league-lead.

Hector Rondon logged a 1-2-3 seventh inning to keep the Astros within earshot. Pinch hitter Nelson Cruz laced a double to start the eighth inning on the first pitch he saw from Framber Valdez, who retired the next three hitters to keep the score 1-0.

Tyler White had a rough night with three strikeouts in as many at bats. Although he has an OBP near .400, the Astros’ DH has struck out in over a third of his at-bats this season (18K in 53 ABs). Jose Altuve is in a deep slump. He has just 3 hits in his last 33 ABs (.091 BA). Entering Monday, the Astros had hit over .330 as a team and averaged nearly nine runs per game in their last six contests in Minneapolis. Houston didn’t record an extra-base hit against the Twins Monday.

Robinson Chirinos was called for catcher’s interference on Adrianza with two strikes in the fifth inning. Verlander struck out Byron Buxton to let his battery mate off the hook.

George Springer pinch hit for Jake Marisnick to lead off the eighth inning. He hit a weak grounder to third and is still in search of his first hit as a substitute. Correa extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-out single in the first inning.

Box score and videos here.

Weather permitting, the Astros will face the Twins tomorrow night at 6:40 p.m. (CT). Gerrit Cole (1-4, 4.71) will be opposed by Michael Pineda (2-1, 5.63). The forecast calls for about a 60% of rain and temperatures in the 40s around first pitch.