The Astros will seek their 11th straight victory Sunday when they close out a three-game series in Kansas City. It will conclude a 10-game Astros road trip in which they have won the first nine, making it the most successful 10-game trip in franchise history. Their previous best was 8-2 last year. They have scored at least six runs in six consecutive games.
“We’re having a good time right now, obviously, we’re in a good stretch,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “And you have to enjoy the ups because there are a lot of times during the season where it can get frustrating.”
Dallas Keuchel picked up his first victory since May 13, allowing two unearned runs over six innings, while Max Stassi and Alex Bregman belted three-run homers as the Astros routed the Royals 10-2 on Saturday.
It has been an exasperating season for the Royals, who have lost five straight and 11 of 12. They are 2-12 in June, scoring 28 runs in 14 games. They fell to 10-25 at home.
They’ve also lost starting right fielder Jorge Soler for at least six weeks, probably longer, with a fractured left big toe.
“He had a CT scan that showed the crack isn’t big enough to warrant surgery right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’ll check again in 10 days to see how it’s doing.
“He was very disappointed, very upset last night. I’ve never seen him that upset, a lot of words in numerous languages coming out of his mouth. He knew something was wrong. He was putting together a really, really good, solid year where he’s getting a chance to play every day and was doing some nice things.”
With the Royals’ Triple-A Omaha club playing Friday night in Tacoma, Wash., plus the two-hour time change, they did not have time to get a body to Kansas City for an afternoon game. They will announce Soler’s roster replacement Sunday.
“We’re not the Enterprise, you can’t beam them up,” Yost said.
Meanwhile, first baseman Lucas Duda will join the Storm Chasers on Sunday in Reno to begin a minor league rehab assignment. Duda hit .256 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 37 games before going on the disabled list May 14 with right foot plantar fasciitis.
Rookie right-hander Brad Keller will make his fourth career start and 25th appearance in the series finale. Keller, who is a Rule 5 draft pick from the Arizona Diamondbacks, is 1-2 with a 2.31 ERA.
Keller is coming off his longest major league start, going 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision last Sunday in Oakland against the A’s. He allowed two runs on five hits.
He has limited opposing hitters to 30 hits, while walking 13 and striking out 23 over 35 innings.
Keller will face the Astros for the first time. Two of his three starts have been against American League West opponents, posting a 2.79 ERA over 9 2/3 innings.
He ranks fourth among AL rookie pitchers with 24 appearances and an opponents’ batting average of .231.
He was primarily a starter in the minors. In 106 appearances, he made 100 starts, including the last 50, but had not pitched above Double-A before this year.
The Astros will counter with right-hander Lance McCullers, who is 8-3 with a 3.83 ERA in 14 starts. He has yielded 66 hits and 35 earned runs over 82 1/3 innings with 32 walks and 81 strikeouts.
McCullers, who has a career 27-19 record with a 3.64 ERA, is 1-0 with a 2.14 ERA in three career starts against the Royals. He had a 2.57 ERA in two no-decisions starts last season against Kansas City, allowing four runs on eight hits over 14 innings, while striking out 18 and walking two.
Salvador Perez has two hits, both home runs, in six at-bats against McCullers.