The Toronto Blue Jays have yet to lose a series this season, but the visiting Houston Astros will be out to change that in a three-game set that opens Friday night.
Houston needed Jeremy Pena’s 10th-inning homer on Sunday to salvage one win from a three-game home series against Toronto.
The Astros went on to win three of four from the host Texas Rangers at Arlington, Texas, earning a 3-2 victory Thursday when Kyle Tucker hit a tiebreaking, pinch-hit homer in the eighth.
The Blue Jays took three of four from the visiting Boston Red Sox, with Alek Manoah striking out seven in seven innings during a 1-0 victory on Thursday.
The Blue Jays are 5-0-1 in their six series this season. They split a four-game set when they visited the New York Yankees from April 11-14.
Toronto left-hander Yusei Kikuchi (0-1, 3.75 ERA) will oppose Houston right-hander Jose Urquidy (1-1, 5.52 ERA) in the opener on Friday.
Urquidy pitched 5 2/3 innings against Toronto on Saturday and allowed two runs, six hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings during a no-decision. He struck out three in a game the Blue Jays won 3-2. Urquidy is 1-1 with a 5.29 ERA in three starts against Toronto.
Kikuchi did not factor in the decision on Sunday against Houston, allowing four runs (two earned), three hits and five walks while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. In 12 career starts against Houston — the team has he faced more than any other in his career — he is 1-5 with a 5.93 ERA.
Toronto first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. did not play in the series finale against Boston on Thursday, a day after he fouled a ball off his right foot. He finished the Wednesday game, and X-rays were negative.
Gosuke Katoh, who doubled for his first career major league hit on Wednesday, started at first base Thursday and went 0-for-2 with a walk.
The hit came after a long journey for Katoh, who was selected in the second round by the Yankees in the 2013 draft. He bounced around the minor leagues and did not reach the majors until this season with Toronto.
“I’ve been through everything in the minor leagues,” the 27-year-old California native said, “and I’ve learned how to overcome anything.”
He opened the season with Toronto, was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo and then was recalled.
“I’m not a guy for individual accomplishments,” Katoh said. “I’ve never been like that. But when I hit that double, I got to second and I looked in the dugout. … I get my happiness from other people’s happiness. And I saw the whole dugout screaming and cheering. That was the moment where I got really happy.”
Yordan Alvarez went 1-for-4 with an RBI for Houston on Thursday, making his fifth start of the season in left field. Alvarez has usually been used as a designated hitter, but his fielding has improved. On Wednesday, he made a strong throw to cut down a runner at home plate.
“I think the main thing for me is that he is finally healthy and his knees don’t bother him any more and it allows him to go out there more,” Astros outfield coach Gary Pettis said.
Houston manager Dusty Baker added, “He doesn’t want to be known just as a DH. If you come out early, you’ll see him practicing. He’s out there every day.”
–Field Level Media