Texas Rangers

Mike Minor improves but Astros’ four solo homers enough

Maybe Justin Verlander is on to something.

The first six runs in the Houston Astros’ 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers Friday night at Minute Maid Park, came courtesy of six solo home runs.

That includes three consecutive homers by the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez off Mike Minor in the third inning.

“I salvaged it for sure at the end, but the third inning killed me obviously,” said Minor, who took the loss to drop to 8-5. “Those guys T’d off on me for a little bit. I’d say I agree with Verlander with the ball being juiced. I just made some bad pitches and they took advantage of it.”

Does Minor really agree with Verlander?

“A little bit,” he said. “I don’t know where those balls landed but they weren’t just barely over the fence.”

Especially Alvarez’s homer on the first pitch he saw to right field. It was measured at 474 feet, which makes it the longest homer hit by an Astros player in the Statcast era (since 2015).

It was, however, a better night for Minor compared to his past two starts, in which he allowed a combined seven earned runs.

“They took a lot of close pitches which put me in holes early,” he said. “If they take those close pitches and I don’t get those calls they’re kind of waiting for the ball to come over the plate.”

Verlander struck out 12 Rangers in just six innings but he was lit up again by the long ball. Rougned Odor and Asdrubal Cabrera hit back-to-back homers against Verlander in the sixth.

It’s the seventh time Texas has hit back-to-back homers this season, including Sunday.

Palumbo, Sampson to start vs. Mariners

Joe Palumbo and Adrian Sampson will start Monday and Tuesday against the Mariners in Seattle.

Palumbo, who turned 24 last month, was slated to start Friday for Triple-A Nashville but was scratched so he’ll be available on Monday for Texas.

“He’s got that New York mentality. He loves to fight, doesn’t give in,” said Woodward, who applauded Palumbo’s reaction to his first two starts in June, which were both rough. He returned for one three-inning relief outing on July 7 against the Twins before returning to Nashville.

“He’s taking all of the criticism in stride. I’m ecstatic about his development,” Woodward said. “That kind of led to this decision because he’s been pitching well ever since then. When we’re dealing with a young kid, we just don’t want to hurt his future and his confidence moving forward.”

Jesse Chavez moves back to bullpen

Right-hander Jesse Chavez is moving back to the bullpen after helping fill a void in the starting rotation. Chavez made five starts while in the rotation. He went at least six innings in his first two starts but struggled in his last several starts, including seven earned runs allowed in 2/3 of an inning in his last start on Sunday.

Danny Santana could be third base option

The Rangers continue to give Danny Santana pregame work at third base, including before Friday’s series opener. Woodward would like to see how Santana fares at the position at some point. Santana has already played first, second shortstop and all three outfield positions.

“It’s a lot to ask of a guy who is taking on more of an every day role even though he’s moving all over. He’s in the lineup all of the time,” Woodward said.

It would potentially give Woodward another option late in games and be another spot Santana could find in the starting lineup.

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.