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Twins-Astros Preview

AP - Sports

When the Minnesota Twins swept three games from the Houston Astros last month, they had Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

Neither is available for the Twins this time.

Minnesota visits Minute Maid Park for the first time in seven years to start a three-game set Monday that begins with few recognizable players and rookie starters on the mound for these rebuilding teams.

Morneau was 5 for 13 and Mauer was limited to one hit in 11 at-bats when Minnesota swept Houston from Aug. 2-4. Morneau, however, was dealt to Pittsburgh on Saturday while Mauer is not with the club on this trip as he recovers from a concussion.

The youth movement is in full swing, with both teams using three rookies in their Sunday lineup.

Minnesota (59-76) gave catcher Josmil Pinto his big league debut in a 4-2 victory over Texas, also starting 33-year-old rookie Doug Bernier and first baseman Chris Colabello.

Houston (45-91) ended a five-game skid with a 2-0 home win over Seattle, with rookies Robbie Grossman, L.J. Hoes and Jonathan Villar combining for five strikeouts and 10 hitless at-bats.

Rookies will be on the mound Monday when Houston's Paul Clemens (4-4, 5.81 ERA) is matched up with Minnesota's Andrew Albers (2-2, 2.92).

Clemens will make his second career start after yielding one run over six innings and not receiving a decision Tuesday in a 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox. The right-hander, who will remain in the rotation for the remainder of the season, was in line for the win before the bullpen conceded three runs in the eighth inning.

"It's an honor, it's a privilege," Clemens said. "Just got to continue to work."

Albers threw 17 1-3 scoreless innings in winning his first two career starts before going 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA in his next three. He recovered after consecutive five-run efforts by allowing three over seven innings in Wednesday's 8-1 defeat to Kansas City.

Houston will try to improve to 12-26 against left-handed starters when it faces Albers for the first time. Minnesota has never faced Clemens.

Grossman turned in an impressive series in Minnesota last month, going 5 for 13 although he struck out six times. Hoes and Villar combined for three hits in 19 at-bats.

The Twins are visiting Houston for the first time since taking two of three in 2006. They have captured three of their last four road series, including a second in that span against a division leader by beating the Rangers in two of three this past weekend.

Minnesota's four runs Sunday represented its highest amount in its last eight games, with the 14 totaled in that span the lowest in the majors.

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