Jose Altuve, a six-time All-Star, three-time batting champ and 2017 American League Most Valuable Player, missed his 10th consecutive game Tuesday for the Houston Astros, who improved to 9-1 during that stretch without arguably their most indispensable performer.
George Springer, an early front-runner for league MVP honors, sat for a second consecutive game, yet the Astros won again, earning at least a split of their four-game series with the visiting Chicago White Sox with a 5-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros have lauded their roster depth, and the clearest indication that their words don't ring hollow is how they've performed while short-handed. Tuesday presented another example of their exceptional wealth of talent as they won for the 12th time in 13 games.
The Astros are likely to welcome back Altuve and Springer sometime soon, perhaps during this extended homestand. But when they win without them, when they seize control as Tony Kemp, Jake Marisnick, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman work walks in succession, their skill is obvious.
"And we're not at full force yet," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We'll get back to full force and we'll feel good. The depth of this roster, we've been bragging about it for the entire year. It's been tested because of the injuries we've had and some guys being held out of the lineup.
"We're not picky on who's the star of the game. We just like putting up good at-bats."
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (4-4, 3.56 ERA) gets the start for the Astros on Wednesday. Cole leads the majors with 93 strikeouts, having recorded seven over five scoreless innings while earning a 3-1 win over the Boston Red Sox on May 17.
He has posted double-digit strikeouts in five of his 10 starts, amassing 28 over 17 innings and three starts this month. Cole has faced the White Sox once in his career, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts over seven innings in a 3-2 victory on June 18, 2015, while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (2-4, 7.42 ERA) will work opposite Cole for the White Sox.
Nova is 2-2 with a 4.71 ERA over seven road starts this season, and fell to 0-2 with a 16.36 ERA at home after allowing nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and four walks over three innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 17.
He had been 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his two previous starts. Nova is 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA over four career appearances (three starts) against the Astros.
For the rebuilding White Sox, some nights are more challenging than others, and their lineup featuring ascendant talents like Tim Anderson and touted former prospects like Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez ran into a buzz saw in the form of Astros veteran right-hander Justin Verlander, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and worked eight frames allowing one hit while posting 12 strikeouts.
Every game isn't a referendum on their rebuild, and on those occasions when the White Sox just don't match up, a bit of understanding goes a long way.
"Tip your cap to him," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said of Verlander after his team's third consecutive defeat. "There's a reason he's been around as long as he's been around. Not taking anything away from our young men, but this guy was pretty good."
--Field Level Media