Rockies, Astros stagger into series matchup

Field Level Media

April 19, 2021 at 9:49 pm.

The Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies play in different leagues and don’t have much in common other than an occasional interleague series, but the teams share something going into their two games this week.

They’re both struggling, and mightily.

The Astros, perennial contenders, have lost seven of their past eight while Colorado, a team in definite flux, has lost eight of its past nine.

Something will have to give when the teams start their short series in Denver on Tuesday night.

The Rockies will send Jon Gray to the mound while Houston hadn’t yet announced a starter as of Monday afternoon.

Lance McCullers would be the projected starter based on the rotation schedule but he is still feeling side effects after receiving his COVID-19 vaccine.

The Astros may take a cautious approach with the game being played in the thinner air.

“Colorado is not the place to try and catch your breath,” manager Dusty Baker said.

If he does start, McCullers (1-1, 5.27 ERA) will be looking for a rebound after a rough outing against Detroit on Wednesday. McCullers tossed five innings in each of his first two starts, getting the victory in the first and a no-decision in the second, but then struggled against the Tigers.

He lasted just 3 2/3 innings in that start last Wednesday, giving up six runs.

Tuesday would be McCullers’ first start at Coors Field and the first time he has faced Colorado. In 10 interleague games – all starts – he is 3-3 with a 3.81 ERA.

Gray has faced the Astros once in his career and got a no-decision in a seven-inning home start on July 25, 2018. He is 7-1 with a 3.19 ERA in 14 interleague starts.

Gray is making his fourth start of the season and his third at home, where he has been particularly sharp. In his first outing he held the Los Angeles Dodgers to one run but left in the sixth with full-body cramps.

He took a no-hitter into the seventh against Arizona on April 8 and settled for his first win of the season. His lone road start came at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, and he allowed three runs in four innings.

Gray (1-1, 2.87) has been one of the bright spots in an otherwise frustrating start to the season. Gray has taken a different approach to his starts this season; instead of dreading them, as he said he has in the past, he is embracing them.

“I see it now and it’s kind of like an opportunity to go have fun,” he said. “I’m in a position where I get to go, you know, play in a game tomorrow – for my job. I think it’s just really cool to kind of take a step back and look at it like that.”

The Rockies placed utility man Chris Owings on the 60-day injured list with a sprained left thumb. Owings was playing well before he went on the 10-day IL April 10, hitting .533 with three triples, three doubles and two stolen bases.