The Astros will send Jennings to the mound for the first time since the first week of the season Tuesday night when they face the last-place Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a three-game series.
Houston (21-29) has lost eight in a row for the first time since May 21-29, 2001. The team record for consecutive losses is 11, set from Aug. 17-28, 1995.
“There’s no question,” Astros manager Phil Garner said. “We’ve had an absolutely awful, rotten, no-good, lousy week.”
Houston dropped the finale of a seven-game road trip 8-4 to Arizona on Sunday. The Astros have been outscored 66-16 during the skid.
“It will turn,” Garner said. “It won’t be this way all year.”
Houston has scored three runs or less six times during its losing streak, and Garner had his team take batting practice Sunday before a day game in an attempt to awaken the lineup. Houston pitchers, though, have struggled as well, posting an 8.31 ERA in those eight games.
Jennings (0-1, 3.00 ERA), acquired in a trade with Colorado in the offseason to replace No. 2 starter Andy Pettitte, will make his third start of the season after missing two months with elbow tendinitis. The 2002 NL rookie of the year hasn’t pitched since April 8, when he gave up three runs and five hits in six innings as Houston lost 10-1 to St. Louis.
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.68 ERA in seven starts against the Reds (19-33), who are just 2-7 against the Astros this year.
Cincinnati, which ended a six-game losing streak with a 4-0 win over Pittsburgh on Monday, will give the ball to Matt Belisle (4-4, 4.65). Belisle is 1-2 with a 7.64 ERA in his last three starts.
The right-hander gave up four runs and 10 hits in seven innings as the Reds lost 4-3 to Washington on Thursday.
Belisle faced Houston on May 9, allowing three unearned runs and six hits while striking out seven in seven innings as the Reds fell 3-2. He fell to 0-3 with a 2.33 ERA in two starts and eight relief appearances against the Astros.
Tests came back normal, and Freel was diagnosed with a contusion to the head and neck and will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Ken Griffey Jr. did not start Monday after starting each of Cincinnati’s last 26 games, but entered the game in the top of the third inning to replace Freel.
Freel’s hustle inspired his teammates to turn in several stellar plays in the field. Edwin Encarnacion had two RBIs for the Reds, as well as three sparkling defensive plays.
“That’s what we need - pitching and defense,” Cincinnati catcher David Ross said. “I think Freel’s play was kind of a turning point for us.”