Recent results notwithstanding, the Houston Astros are in prime position for a fourth consecutive postseason appearance even if another American League West title is likely out of reach.
The Astros (23-24) closed a miserable 2-9 road trip that featured stops in Anaheim, Oakland and Los Angeles with an 8-1 loss to the Dodgers on Sunday. They sit 6 1/2 games behind the Athletics with just 13 to play as they return to Minute Maid Park for their final homestand of the season looking to fend off the Seattle Mariners (22-26) for second place in the division.
Houston, which will host the Texas Rangers (17-30) in a three-game series starting Tuesday, could use better health to secure that position, with second baseman Jose Altuve (knee) plus relievers Blake Taylor (elbow) and Chris Devenski (elbow) on the injured list angling to return prior to the close of the season.
"We need to see better pitching, better defense (and) better offense," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "We've got to get some guys back."
Right-hander Jose Urquidy (0-1, 3.72 ERA) gets his third start for the Astros after his season debut was delayed until Sept. 5 by COVID-19 complications.
Urquidy has struggled with his control, issuing nearly as many walks (six) in 9 2/3 innings this season as he did over 41 innings as a rookie in 2019, when he walked seven batters against 40 strikeouts. He has fanned just three batters thus far in 2020.
Urquidy has faced the Rangers once, on July 20, 2019, when he allowed one run on two hits over seven innings in a 6-1 win at Minute Maid Park. He walked none and fanned nine while earning his first major league victory.
Rookie right-hander Kyle Cody (0-1, 0.93) will make his sixth appearance and third start of the season for the Rangers on Tuesday.
It will mark a third consecutive start for Cody. He allowed a combined two runs (one earned) on four hits and five walks with five strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings in starts against the Seattle Mariners -- against whom he logged a career-high three innings -- and the Los Angeles Angels this month.
Cody, who made his major league debut on Aug. 21, will make his first career appearance against Houston. He has yet to allow a home run while opponents have produced a .211 slugging percentage over his two starts.
After punting on their first season in their new ballpark by jettisoning several veterans at the trade deadline, the Rangers have shown some spunk of late, going 4-3 over their penultimate homestand following a 1-8 stretch bridging August and September. The first stages of Texas' youth movement have offered signs of optimism for the closing stretch and beyond.
"I was talking to a lot of staff and players just about I like where our offense is at," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. "We've been able to, like I've said before, string together (hits). You get a couple good at-bats and we're finishing off rallies with big hits. And I think there's a little bit of belief, a different kind of energy.
"I know we've got a lot of young guys in there. They're going to get exposed at times but they also have really live bodies and live bats. They're letting it rip. When they're getting good pitches, you can see they can do some damage. Overall ... I like it. It's just a better vibe, a better energy."
--Field Level Media