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New-look Astros seek back-to-back wins vs. Guardians

Hours after the Astros made the shocking move of optioning veteran first baseman Jose Abreu to allow him to work on his swing at its Florida spring training facility, his replacements played a role in Houston’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday.

The Astros claimed the opener of this three-game series, set to continue on Wednesday in Houston, by erasing a three-run, first-inning deficit and later getting a two-run, walk-off homer from pinch-hitter Victor Caratini. Joey Loperfido and Jon Singleton — the players most impacted by the Abreu move — delivered timely hits that keyed the Astros‘ five-run frame in the fourth inning.

It was the MLB debut for Loperfido, a top prospect in the organization.

Loperfido slugged 13 home runs and drove in 27 while playing first base and the outfield for Triple-A Sugar Land, and he was the top candidate for a promotion with Abreu scuffling. His two-run single snapped a 3-3 tie, providing Loperfido his first career hit and RBIs.

In line to get the majority of starts at first with Abreu optioned, Singleton followed Loperfido with a three-run home run for his first long ball and RBIs of the season.

Abreu, 37 and in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million deal, is batting .099 with zero home runs and three RBIs in 22 games. He was a three-time All-Star, 2020 American League MVP and 2014 AL Rookie of the Year with the Chicago White Sox.

“We met with Jose on this, and we both agree that this move will be good for him and for the team in the long run,” Astros general manager Dana Brown said. “We are confident that a change of scenery and a new environment will help him get his rhythm and timing back.

“Jose is a team-first guy, and we applaud him for this. We know what this guy can do, and we’re confident in his determination and work ethic.”

Right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0, 1.74 ERA) will get the start for the Astros on Wednesday, his first at home this season. Verlander tossed 4 1/3 shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, allowing three hits and four walks while recording seven strikeouts in the Astros‘ 3-1 loss. He didn’t figure in the decision.

The veteran made his season debut on April 19 against the Washington Nationals and earned the victory following a stint on the injured list (shoulder).

Verlander is 23-24 with a 4.45 ERA over 55 career starts against the Guardians. He faced Cleveland once last season, allowing one run on three hits with five strikeouts over eight innings in a 2-1 win with the New York Mets on May 21.

Right-hander Triston McKenzie (2-2, 4.91) has the starting assignment for the Guardians. After allowing a season-high six runs (five earned) in an 8-2 loss to the New York Yankees on April 13, McKenzie has surrendered three runs on nine hits and five walks with 13 strikeouts over his past nine innings and two starts — both Cleveland wins.

McKenzie is 2-2 with a 4.13 ERA over four career starts against the Astros. He took the loss in his most recent outing against Houston after allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 6-4 setback on June 10, 2023.

Cleveland reliever Hunter Gaddis surrendered the walk-off blast to Caratini an inning after Guardians closer Emmanuel Clase worked a scoreless ninth inning on 14 pitches.

“We didn’t want to extend anybody too far,” Cleveland manager Stephen Vogt said of his bullpen. “You always want Clase to stay in the game but we trust (Gaddis). We had the right piece at the right time, it just didn’t work out.”

—Field Level Media

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