Astros' Verlander starts opener at White Sox

By Tom Musick, The Sports Xchange  |  April 20, 2018 at 11:02 AM
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The Houston Astros will try to increase their winning streak to four games when they visit the Chicago White Sox on Friday to open a three-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Houston (13-7) is coming off a series win over the Seattle Mariners in which it won the last three games of a four-game set. Through 20 games, the defending World Series champions have outscored opponents 88-55 for a plus-33 run differential.

Now, the Astros will try to keep the good times rolling with ace right-hander Justin Verlander (2-0, 1.35 ERA) on the mound for the series opener. The 35-year-old has shined since arriving from Detroit last season and needs 10 more victories to join the 200-win club.

In 26 2/3 innings this year, Verlander has 34 strikeouts compared with five walks. He has limited opponents to no earned runs in two starts, one earned run in another start and three earned runs in his so-called worst performance of 2018.

Verlander is no stranger to pitching on Chicago's South Side from his years in the American League Central. In 42 career starts against the White Sox, he is 20-13 with a 3.82 ERA. He has logged 285 innings against Chicago, which trails only Cleveland (324 2/3 innings) and Kansas City (307 innings) for opposing teams that Verlander has faced the most.

Chicago (4-11) expected to counter with veteran right-hander James Shields (1-1, 4.50 ERA), but a marathon 14-inning game against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday forced the team to adjust on the fly. White Sox manager Rick Renteria summoned Shields to be the team's 10th pitcher in the 14th inning, but he gave up the game-winning hit on his 28th pitch.

Now, Renteria and his staff must regroup to determine who will start Friday night. The club had the day off Thursday and did not meet with reporters to discuss its plan.

However, Renteria insisted the 12-11 loss in 14 innings was not a wasted effort. The nearly six-hour game featured Yoan Moncada's first career grand slam and several other highlights.

"You can bleep it, but my (bleeping) guys showed a lot of (courage) today in this loss," Renteria said to reporters after the game, as reported by The Athletic. "They're going to end up winning more games because of the way they went about their business today in the long run than they might imagine."

Only a few seasons ago, the Astros found themselves at a rebuilding stage similar to the White Sox today. Houston now has the look and feel of a perennial contender with a deep starting rotation and a dangerous lineup.

One Houston contributor, closer Ken Giles, might not be available for Friday's series opener. Giles has battled recent back tightness, but the team has decided not to place him on the 10-day disabled list.

"As it grows a little bit longer, we don't want him to miss too much time," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said to the Houston Chronicle. "Right now, we don't think it is, but right now given that he can't move around and do the things that he normally does, it's a little concerning. But we haven't talked DL yet."

The White Sox shuffled their roster Thursday as they traded infielder Tyler Saladino to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash considerations and acquired outfielder Trayce Thompson from the Oakland Athletics, also for cash considerations.

Thompson started his career with the White Sox in 2015 and is a .232 (96-for-414) hitter with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs in 154 games.

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