Musgrove does himself no favors in defeat
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.”
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.