Astros turn to Lance McCullers Jr. at home against Royals

MLB Kansas City

With every strong appearance, especially in his home confines of Minute Maid Park, Astros rookie right-hander Luis Garcia cements his status as a legitimate option to start in the postseason should Houston qualify.

Garcia carried a shutout into the seventh inning on Tuesday in leading the Astros to a 4-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals that evened the three-game series and set the stage for a rubber match on Wednesday. Garcia (10-6) became the third member of the staff to reach double figures in victories and improved to 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA over his last three home starts over 18 2/3 innings.

“He changed his game plan up a little bit,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Garcia, who recorded seven strikeouts against just one walk while allowing four hits over 6 2/3 innings. “He threw more (34) fastballs. He was very, very aggressive in the strike zone. He was masterful.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (10-4, 3.21 ERA) will start the series finale for the Astros on Wednesday.

McCullers matched his single-season high in victories when he limited the Seattle Mariners to two runs on five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts over six innings in a 12-3 home win last Friday. He snapped a two-game skid with the victory and has recorded a decision in 10 of his last 11 starts, going 7-3 with a 3.48 ERA and 82 strikeouts over 64 2/3 innings in that span.

McCullers is 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA over five career starts against the Royals. He’ll be backed up at third base by Alex Bregman, who returns to the lineup after missing more than two months with a quad injury.

Left-hander Mike Minor (8-11, 5.34) will make his team-leading 26th start of the season on Wednesday for the Royals. He did not factor into the decision in his previous start against the Astros on Thursday after working 5 1/3 innings and allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts in the Royals’ 6-3 loss.

Minor leads the club in innings (141 2/3) and has worked at least five innings in 22 of 25 starts, including 19 of his last 20. Minor is 4-5 with a 5.40 ERA on the road and has dropped his last two road decisions and previous three overall.

He is 3-4 with a 4.83 ERA over 17 career games (14 starts) against the Astros. His 82 innings against Houston are his most against any opponent.

Opportunities were few and far between for the Royals on Tuesday on the heels of back-to-back strong offensive showings. When a chance presented itself to break through trailing 3-0 in the third inning, Kansas City turned to its most effective collective weapon: its team speed.

The Royals entered the second game of the series leading the American League with 93 steals. When Jarrod Dyson followed a leadoff double by Michael A. Taylor with a walk, the Royals executed a double steal that pushed both runners in scoring position with no outs. But when Emmanuel Rivera (strikeout) and Whit Merrifield (lineout) failed to execute, Taylor attempted a steal of home with two outs and two strikes on Nicky Lopez that proved unsuccessful.

“We’re an aggressive ball team,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We run the bases aggressively. Trying to take a shot with two strikes and two outs, if he’s safe we’re all talking about what a momentum shift that is.”

–Field Level Media

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