Mus­grove does him­self no fa­vors in de­feat

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - COMMENTARY | BASEBALL - By Jake Ka­plan jake.ka­plan@chron.com twit­ter.com/jakemka­plan

The loom­ing re­turn of two sta­ples in the Astros’ ro­ta­tion means de­ci­sions for the team’s brass.

Over the next few weeks, two pitch­ers who opened the sec­ond half on the start­ing staff must move to the bullpen or Class AAA Fresno. The first of those de­ci­sions likely will be re­quired this week. Af­ter he makes his fi­nal mi­nor league re­hab start Sun­day in Class AA Cor­pus Christi, Collin McHugh could join the Astros as early as next week­end’s se­ries in Bal­ti­more. A place in the ro­ta­tion will need to be cleared.

Which made Joe Mus­grove’s start in Satur­day night’s 4-2 loss to the Min­nesota Twins at Minute Maid Park im­por­tant if the sec­ond-year righthander har­bored any hopes of sal­vaging his spot. Mus­grove has strug­gled this sea­son, to the point where he was de­moted to Class AAA for a start last month. Yet, the 24-year-old for­mer firstround pick has shown him­self ca­pa­ble of be­ing dom­i­nant.

But his re­sults against the Twins (46-44) didn’t bode well for his sta­tus the next turn through. Mus­grove failed to record an out in the sixth in­ning and was charged with four runs de­spite al­low­ing one run through the first four frames. His ERA is 6.12 in 15 starts this year.

Mus­grove al­lowed eight hits and two walks against five strike­outs. He faced bases-loaded jams with no outs in the fifth and sixth in­nings. In the fifth, he sur­vived with only one run against him. Af­ter load­ing them in the sixth, he was pulled. Two of the three run­ners scored with Tony Sipp on the mound.

“Over­all, I just didn’t feel like I had very good com­mand of the fast­ball,” Mus­grove said. “Even if I was in the zone it wasn’t re­ally where I was try­ing to go with it.”

The Astros (61-30) made Twins All-Star starter Ervin San­tana work for 110 pitches over six in­nings but came away with two runs, the first on a Yuli Gur­riel dou­ble and the other on Jose Al­tuve’s 14th home run of the sea­son. They had less luck against Min­nesota’s bullpen. Squan­dered chances

The Astros squan­dered three chances in which they loaded the bases with two outs. Ge­orge Springer came up in that sit­u­a­tion in the sec­ond and popped out to sec­ond. In the fourth, Al­tuve grounded out to third. And in the sev­enth, Gur­riel bounced to sec­ond off Tay­lor Rogers.

“They’re paid to get us out, so I think they made some good pitches,” Astros man­ager A.J. Hinch said. “It’s not easy hit­ting with the bases loaded against an All-Star. I think he made his pitches when he needed to.”

The first pitch Mus­grove threw left the yard, as Brian Dozier smacked his sec­ond lead­off homer in as many nights. The Astros’ starter set­tled in and all but cruised to the fourth, when he es­caped hav­ing a first-and-third sit­u­a­tion with one out by strik­ing out Rob­bie Gross­man and Ed­die Rosario. Costly de­flec­tion

Jorge Polanco opened the Twins’ fifth with a bunt sin­gle to the third­base side and Mus­grove re­sponded by is­su­ing a walk to Ja­son Cas­tro. Af­ter a Dozier sin­gle loaded the bases, Polanco scored on a dou­ble-play ground­out by Zack Gran­ite. Mus­grove struck out Joe Mauer to strand Dozier at third.

Mus­grove is­sued his sec­ond walk, this one to All-Star Miguel Sano, to open the sixth. Max Ke­pler sin­gled on an 0-2 fast­ball and Gross­man loaded the bases once again with a sin­gle. Hinch called on Sipp, who in­duced a chop­per from Rosario but had it de­flect off his glove past Al­tuve. Two runs scored on the play to break a 2-2 tie. Sipp pre­vented fur­ther dam­age in the sixth and James Hoyt worked around two hits and a walk in 11⁄3 score­less frames. Fran­cis Martes was im­pres­sive on the back end, strik­ing out two in 12⁄3 score­less in­nings.

“These guys, a lot of them, will give you a free strike, so I tried to take ad­van­tage of that,” Mus­grove said. “But I think later in the outing I just got a lit­tle too com­fort­able with the zone and got a lit­tle bit too much plate.”

Karen War­ren / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Astros sec­ond base­man Jose Al­tuve, left, tries to get the tag on the Twins’ Rob­bie Gross­man, who lands on sec­ond base af­ter dou­bling in the sec­ond in­ning Satur­day night. Gross­man went 2-for-4 in the Twins’ vic­tory.

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