The Astros became the fourth team in the majors to reach the 40-win mark by virtue of their 13-3 win over the Chicago White Sox in the opener of a three-game series on Friday, and the Houston offense is coming to life.
Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker all homered in the Astros' 10-run sixth inning, and Yuli Gurriel also went deep in the game. Alex Bregman had two RBIs and three runs, Gurriel collected three hits, and Brantley, Alvarez and Tucker had two hits apiece.
Bregman, who finished second in American League MVP voting while slugging 41 home runs in 2019, went deep for the first time since May 23. Gurriel, the reigning AL batting champion, recorded his fourth three-hit game of the season.
"They kind of make my lineup when they're going," said Astros manager Dusty Baker, whose team earned its third win in a row. "(Bregman) has been swinging better, and so has Yuli. They found a couple holes, hit a couple balls over the fence and we've been waiting on this. Now we just have to build on this."
Justin Verlander (8-2, 1.94 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Saturday.
The 39-year-old right-hander earned his league-leading eighth victory in his previous start. He allowed four runs (all unearned) on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts over seven innings in a 9-4 win over the Miami Marlins on Sunday.
Verlander has allowed one earned run or none in eight of his 12 starts this year.
Verlander is 22-13 with a 3.65 ERA over 45 career starts against the White Sox. He is set to face Chicago for the first time since May 21, 2019, a 5-1 win in which he allowed one run on one hit and one walk with 12 strikeouts in eight innings.
Right-hander Johnny Cueto (0-3, 3.53 ERA) has the starting assignment for the White Sox on Saturday. It will mark his seventh appearance and sixth start of the season.
Cueto did not factor into the decision in his last outing, when he allowed three runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over five relief innings in an 8-6 loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday. It was just the second career relief appearance for the 36-year-old veteran.
Cueto is 3-6 with a 3.64 ERA over 13 career starts against the Astros. In his most recent start against Houston, he pitched five scoreless innings while allowing five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in a 6-1 road win with the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 16, 2013.
White Sox manager Tony La Russa announced that right-hander Michael Kopech will start the series finale on Sunday, a positive development after Kopech lasted just 13 pitches against the Texas Rangers before departing with right knee discomfort on Sunday.
Kopech had the knee drained this week and threw a full bullpen session on Thursday during a scheduled off day for the White Sox, whose three-game winning streak ended Friday.
Kopech (2-2, 1.92 ERA) has allowed more than two runs only twice in 11 starts and has held the opponent without an earned run six times, excluding his abbreviated outing against the Rangers.
"He feels great," La Russa said of Kopech, "so he's ready."
--Field Level Media