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MLB: Indians send third straight rookie pitcher to face Astros

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Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve certainly has a flair for the dramatic, a staple to his game that has manifested itself countless times over the years.

Against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday, Altuve marked the 10-year anniversary of his major league debut by smacking a pair of solo home runs to pace the Astros’ 9-3 home victory. He finished 2-for-4 with a walk in his 1,374th career game, all with Houston.

He and the Astros will pursue a sweep of the three-game series on Wednesday.

Altuve debuted on July 20, 2011. He has since been named to seven All-Star teams, won three batting titles and been voted American League Most Valuable Player in 2017, a season capped by the Astros’ first World Series title. It’s quite the resume for an unheralded prospect.

“The last three or four days have been a lot of emotions going through my body,” Altuve said “It’s not easy to get to 10 years. This is very special to me. It means a lot. Especially with the team I have and the teammates, this is even more special.

“It was another dream come true and I feel very thankful.”

Right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (7-2, 2.80 ERA) will start for Houston on Wednesday. He recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in his last start, limiting the Chicago White Sox to one run on two hits and two walks over seven innings on Friday.

McCullers has allowed two runs or fewer in six consecutive starts, going 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 35 innings with a .194/.293/.302 slash line allowed.

He is 2-2 with a 5.82 ERA over four career starts against the Indians, including a 6-3 road victory on July 2, when he allowed two runs on six hits and four walks with eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.

Rookie right-hander Eli Morgan (1-3, 7.86 ERA) will start the series finale for the Indians. He has worked five innings in each of his previous four starts, pitching to a 6.30 ERA with 22 strikeouts while allowing opponents an .853 OPS.

Morgan earned the victory in one of those outings, limiting the Detroit Tigers to four runs on six hits with four strikeouts in the Indians’ 13-5 win on June 28.

He faced the Astros in his next start, allowing three runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in a 3-2 loss on July 3. Morgan has allowed at least one home run in each of his six starts this season, nine total.

Morgan will be the third consecutive rookie to start against the Astros this series, joining J.C. Mejia and Triston McKenzie, with the latter avoiding the big inning until Houston posted six runs in the fifth.

The Astros didn’t see the Indians’ top three starters in the seven-game season series, with Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale both on the injured list and Zach Plesac having pitched the series finale against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.

Houston’s veteran lineup presents a formidable challenge. That the Indians are relying on a trio of rookie right-handers makes for a staggering chore, with the results thus far unsurprising.

“A lot like last night, I think it was four innings (and) 10 baserunners,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of McKenzie, who allowed five runs on eight hits, one walk and one hit batter.

“He was aggressive with his fastball, and first and foremost that was really important. He didn’t shy away from it, so that was good.”

–Field Level Media

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