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Cleveland @ Houston preview

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Minute Maid Park

Last Meeting ( Jul 21, 2021 ) Cleveland 5, Houston 4

One by-product of carrying the youngest roster in the majors is the occasional defensive lapse that proves costly, and for the Cleveland Guardians, mistakes are part of the growing process.

The Guardians lost for the sixth time in eight games Sunday, 4-2 at home to the Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland, set to embark on a seven-game trip that begins Monday night against the Houston Astros, surrendered an unearned run that undermined a strong start by right-hander Shane Bieber on Sunday. The Guardians entered the game third in the majors in defensive runs saved, but inconsistency has been a bit of a bugaboo.

"I think that's part of how we can be a good team," Guardians manager Terry Francona said. "We're going to have to find the combinations where we're clean defensively. And it hasn't been that easy to this point in the season.

"We're working on it, but I can't tell you that I can snap my fingers tomorrow and we're going to be the best defensive team at every position. That's probably not the case."

Right-hander Zach Plesac (1-3, 4.42 ERA) is the scheduled starter for Cleveland on Monday. He is winless over his last four starts, going 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA and an opponent OPS of .811.

However, after allowing 17 runs (14 earned) in his prior three starts, Plesac recorded a quality start, his second of the season, against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. He allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts over six innings while not factoring into the decision of a 5-4 loss.

Plesac has faced the Astros once, allowing four runs on six hits and three walks over five innings in a 10-4 home win during his rookie season on July 31, 2019.

Right-hander Luis Garcia (3-2, 3.35) has the starting assignment for Houston on Monday.

He is coming off his worst start of the season, having allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and three walks with four strikeouts over four innings in a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

Garcia had surrendered a total of three earned runs on 12 hits and five walks with 23 strikeouts in his previous three starts, going 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in that stretch.

Garcia has faced the Guardians once, pitching six shutout innings while allowing three hits and recording eight strikeouts in a 9-3 home victory last July 20.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve maintained his torrid pace this month. He recorded his seventh multi-hit game in May by going 2-for-4 with a home run and a double in the Astros' 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Sunday, a win that clinched the four-game weekend series for the Astros.

Altuve hit his league-leading fifth leadoff home run, his ninth homer overall this season, and scored a pair of runs.

Altuve missed 11 games with a left-hamstring strain last month. Since his return on May 2, he is batting .343 with 18 runs scored and 11 RBIs. Among his 24 hits, 13 have been for extra bases, including eight home runs. Houston is 15-3 in the 18 games Altuve has started since he was reinstated from the 10-day injured list.

"He's our igniter," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "He starts our engine. Since he came back from the IL he's increased 60, 70 points on his batting average. He's feeling pretty good about himself. He's running good, and we certainly miss him when he's not in the lineup."

--Field Level Media

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