After opening the season with one of the best starts in franchise history, the Houston Astros offense has been sputtering. The Astros look to generate some runs and avoid losing their second consecutive series when they host the Texas Rangers in their series finale Sunday.
Houston (23-20) owned a franchise-best 19-9 record through May 4, but has won just four of its last 15 games and has lost three of its last four series.
The Astros won Friday’s opener 5-3, but did not get a runner past first base until the ninth inning in Saturday’s 6-0 loss.
Houston has scored three runs or fewer in six of its last seven games, one run or fewer in four of those games and has scored just once against the Rangers’ (22-20) starting pitchers in 12 innings.
“If we come out of this and play good ball then we’ll call it a phase,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “But I’m not sure. We certainly haven’t played sound defense and we haven’t pitched well and we haven’t hit well. I just don’t think we’ve played our best ball yet.”
Houston had just five hits Saturday, and Texas is outhitting them 27-11 through two games. The Astros had a season-low three hits two games ago, and are batting .236 (117-for-496) in their last 11 losses.
Houston has not lost consecutive home games in an interleague series since June 6-7, 2000, against Minnesota.
The Rangers have won just four of their last 14 interleague road games, and have not won an interleague series on the road since sweeping Florida in June 2004.
Texas is tied for first in the AL West with Oakland and has not had a losing road trip this season. The Rangers are 4-3 on their current trip—which concludes Sunday—outscoring their opponents 41-27 in those games.
Center fielder Gary Matthews went 3-for-5 with two doubles on Saturday, and is 7-for-10 with four doubles in the series.
John Koronka, who has never faced the Astros, will make his first career interleague start Sunday.
Koronka (4-1, 4.22 ERA) has won four straight decisions, but is coming off his shortest outing of the season. The left-hander allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings in a 14-13 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday, but did not factor in the decision.
Houston first baseman Lance Berkman is batting .353 (12-for-34) with three homers against lefties this season, but is in a 3-for-27 (.111) slump in his last eight games.
Rookie Taylor Buchholz will take the mound for the Astros looking for his first win since April 30.
After going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his first four starts, Buchholz (2-3, 5.31 ERA) has gotten knocked around in his last two outings.
The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed eight runs in each of his last two starts, and he lasted just three innings in a 10-1 loss to San Francisco on Monday.
“My command hasn’t been there,” Buchholz said. “It hasn’t been as crisp. I’ve been getting behind some of the batters. When I have been getting ahead, I haven’t been making good pitches either.”
He has allowed 19 hits in 7 1-3 innings in his last two starts, with opponents batting .514 in those games.