Indianapolis Star
Major League Baseball
Preview
Kansas City at Houston
When: 2:10 PM ET, Sunday, June 24, 2018
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

Houston starting pitcher Gerrit Cole aims for his seventh straight win Sunday as the Astros face the visiting Kansas City Royals in the rubber match of their three-game series. The Astros were shut out for the first time since May 11 in Friday's 1-0 loss but evened the series with Saturday’s 4-3 victory on Carlos Correa’s game-ending RBI single in the 12th inning.

Jose Altuve reached base four times and tied Terry Puhl for seventh in Astros' history with 1,357 hits on Saturday as Houston improved to 14-2 over its last 16 games. The 2017 American League Most Valuable Player has 44 hits in his last 27 games and is batting .427 over that span to lead the Astros, who are 44-3 when leading after seven innings. Kansas City is 3-17 this month and need four wins in its final six games to avoid the worst June in club history. First baseman Hunter Dozier blasted a three-run homer in Saturday’s loss but the two batters at the top of the order – Whit Merrifield and Rosell Herrera – were a combined 0-for-9 with five strikeouts.

TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, FS Kansas City, AT&T SportsNet-Southwest (Houston)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals RH Jason Hammel (2-8, 4.88 ERA) vs. Astros RH Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.59)

Hammel lost his third straight start Tuesday, allowing four runs (three earned) on nine hits and four walks in 5 2/3 frames against Texas. “I had trouble gripping the ball the first few innings,” Hammel told reporters. “I was just sweating like a dog. It’s something I’ve dealt with my whole career. I sweat a lot.” The 35-year-old has gone 2-2 with a 2.85 ERA in nine career games (eight starts) against Houston.

Cole walked a career-high five batters and received a no-decision Monday against Tampa Bay after giving up four runs in seven innings. The 27-year-old Californian has a 4.09 ERA in his last seven starts after posting a 1.43 mark over his first eight outings. Cole’s only previous start against Kansas City came as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 21, 2015, when he allowed three runs (two earned) over 7 1/3 innings in a 3-1 loss.

WALK-OFFS

1. Correa is 13-for-44 with three homers and 10 RBIs over his last 11 games.

2. Kansas City activated 1B Lucas Duda from the 10-day disabled list and optioned OF Paulo Orlando to Triple-A Omaha.

3. The Astros are 18-6 in day games this season.

PREDICTION: Astros 7, Royals 2
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away East Central West IL
Kansas City 23-53 L1 10-29 13-24 3-12 12-14 6-22 2-5
Houston 51-27 W1 22-16 29-11 9-8 12-6 25-10 5-3
Last Meeting
Kansas City Houston
Date Away Home Avg HR OPS Avg HR OPS
6/23/18 KC 3 HOU 4 x .125 1 .367 .205 1 .620
Player Stats
Season Series
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Kansas City M. Moustakas .222 4 .578
Houston J. Altuve .312 5 .979
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Kansas City H. Dozier 2 2 5
Houston A. Bregman 2 5 5
Pitching ERA Avg K
Kansas City 5.17 .180 32
Houston 1.69 .269 64
Season
Batting Player Avg Hits OPS
Kansas City W. Merrifield .280 79 .759
Houston J. Altuve .346 107 .902
Offense Player HR Runs RBI
Kansas City M. Moustakas 14 35 48
Houston G. Springer 15 57 42
Pitching ERA Avg K
Kansas City 5.21 .240 546
Houston 2.82 .264 815