Brandon Bielak to get first start as Astros host D-backs

National Sports

Rookie right-hander Luis Garcia came through Thursday when the Houston Astros experienced yet another rotation setback.

Garcia allowed just one run while pitching into the sixth inning of the Astros’ 12-1 road victory over the Texas Rangers, a win that enabled Houston to claim the four-game series. Garcia had his turn in the rotation moved up one day when scheduled starter Framber Valdez was scratched due to a cut on the index finger of his left (pitching) hand.

The Astros will fill the void on Friday by turning to right-hander Brandon Bielak in the opener of a three-game interleague series against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

Bielak (3-3, 4.47 ERA) has made 26 appearances — all in relief — this season. He also has one save. He made six starts in 12 appearances in 2020.

“His velocity is good,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said, “He’s throwing the ball well. He’s the most stretched-out guy; that’s why we sent him down to start (at Triple-A Sugar Land). He can minimize his pitches early.

“We’re hoping he can go deep in the game. We’ve got a pretty fresh bullpen because of the last two games.”

The Astros (86-60) are hopeful that Valdez will return to the rotation on Monday in the opener of a seven-game road trip starting against the Los Angeles Angels. Right-handers Lance McCullers Jr. and Zack Greinke are scheduled to follow Bielak in the rotation against the Diamondbacks.

Houston has won four of its last five games, thanks in part to the series win in Arlington Texas. The Astros had been 2-4 there this season. This time around, the Astros outscored the Rangers 35-12.

“It was a good series,” Baker said. “You’ll take three out of four, especially since we haven’t had success at this stadium.”

Veteran left-hander Madison Bumgarner (7-10, 4.66 ERA) will start Friday for the Diamondbacks. He has dropped three consecutive decisions and is 1-4 with a 4.84 ERA over his past seven starts, having allowed nine home runs in 44 2/3 innings. Bumgarner has surrendered five runs in each of his past three starts while logging a total of 17 innings.

Bumgarner is 4-2 with a 2.89 ERA over eight career starts against the Astros. He was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against Houston last season, his first with Arizona.

The Diamondbacks (47-99) have dropped nine of their past 11 games, and with one more setback they would record the second 100-loss season in franchise history, joining the 2004 club, which finished 51-111.

Still, the Diamondbacks continue to play with verve, as witnessed by the terrific run-saving catch made by left fielder Henry Ramos in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.

“Those are the types of plays that I’ve come to expect from our players,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “You talk about traveling full speed and sacrificing for the team, he went out there and did a great job.

“I expect us to keep practicing full speed, playing full speed and playing fearless baseball. (That is) one of my big asks. It’s something they know is going to help us compete at the right times the right way.”

First-place Houston enters the weekend with a seven-game lead on the Oakland A’s (79-67) and an eight-game edge on the Seattle Mariners (78-68) in the American League West.

–Field Level Media

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