MLB: Astros’ Ronel Blanco hopes to avoid pitching staff jinx vs. Orioles


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The pitching rotating door continues for the Houston Astros.

The latest pitcher with injury concerns for the Astros is right-hander Jake Bloss, who made his major league debut on Friday. The 22-year-old was filling in for veteran right-hander Justin Verlander, who landed on the injured list Tuesday with neck discomfort.

When Bloss departed with two outs in the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles, his first start with Houston cut short by right shoulder discomfort, it marked the latest blow for an injury-ravaged rotation. The Houston staff continues to hang on by a thread, as evidenced by the Astros’ 14-11 home win in the opener of a three-game series that continues Saturday.

“We have to fight through it. We’ve got to find a way,” Astros manager Joe Espada said. “That next man up (mentality), here you go, it’s your turn to give us some valuable innings.

“I don’t like taking those trips (to the mound to remove an injured pitcher) and I don’t like any of our pitchers getting hurt. But that’s where we’re at and we need to continue to fight through this.”

Verlander is on the injured list for the second time this season. The Astros have lost starters Cristian Javier and Jose Urquidy to season-ending elbow surgeries. Left-hander Framber Valdez made a trip to the IL in the opening month. When Bloss departed early, it set off a chain reaction that resulted in Espada using high-leverage relievers Tayler Scott and Bryan Abreu to seal the win.

Abreu pitched for a third consecutive game. Scott recorded five crucial outs on Thursday in a win over the Chicago White Sox. Both likely will be unavailable on Saturday.

“Obviously, I was trying to stay away from them,” Espada said. “We needed to win that game. All hands on deck.”

Right-hander Ronel Blanco (7-2, 2.43 ERA) is the scheduled starter for Houston on Saturday. He flirted with his second no-hitter of the season on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers, tossing seven hitless, scoreless innings with eight strikeouts before handing the ball to the bullpen in a 4-1 win. After suffering back-to-back losses bridging May and June, he is 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA and 16 strikeouts over his past two starts.

Blanco is tied for first in the majors in opponent batting average (.164) and he is fourth in the American League in ERA. He will be making his first career start against the Orioles.

American League ERA leader Corbin Burnes (8-2, 2.14) has the starting nod for the Orioles. The right-hander earned his fifth consecutive winning decision after allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over six innings in an 8-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

Burnes is 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in two career appearances (one start) against the Astros. He allowed five runs on seven hits — including a career-high four home runs — and two walks with five strikeouts over five innings in a 12-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on May 22, 2023.

Despite the loss, the Orioles’ seven-run eighth inning could have ramifications for the rest of the series. The Astros didn’t want to pitch Abreu in a game they once led 14-3.

“Small victories,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “We made them use a guy (Abreu) three days in a row … up 11 at one point. Proud of our guys for fighting back the way they did.”

–Field Level Media


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