MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Houston Astros got runners on base, but just couldn’t get any any in to bail out Scott Kazmir after his rocky fourth inning.
Jose Altuve flied out with the bases loaded to end the game as the Astros left 10 10 men on in a 3-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
“It was disappointing, because we had opportunities,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had base runners on quite a few innings, but the big hit eluded us.”
The Astros, who scored 21 runs in their previous two games, were shutout for the second time in four games.
Kazmir (2-4) gave up three earned runs on three hits with six strikeouts in seven innings, losing his command in a fourth that saw a double, two hit batters and a walk.
Runs were hard to come by with two of the American League’s top rookies left out of the lineups in Houston shortstop Carlos Correa and Minnesota slugger Miguel Sano. Joe Mauer was given the day off against Kazmir, who served up Eduardo Nunez’s third home run of the season on a 1-1 pitch to start the third inning. Kazmir used two of his four strikeouts to end the third, but that command slipped an inning later.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Kazmir hit Torii Hunter to force one home. Altuve made a stellar play at second base to turn what would have been a two-run single for Nunez into an RBI groundout that gave the Twins a 3-0 lead.
“Once I get in those situations, I kind of amp it up a little bit, give a different look and throw it harder,” Kazmir said. “When I did that, I was side to side with everything. That was unfortunate.”
Kyle Gibson (9-9) allowed four hits, struck out four and walked three in 5 2-3 scoreless innings. The Astros worked Gibson’s pitch count up to 111 by the sixth inning, so manager Paul Molitor turned to Brian Duensing, Glen Perkins and Trevor May before calling on Kevin Jepsen to close.
An Astros lineup that leads the majors in home runs (174) and the American League in steals (97) couldn’t get either against a surging Twins unit that picked up its seventh win in the last eight games to jump back into wild-card contention.
Perkins, May and Jepsen struck out six in the final three innings, to bring Houston’s AL-leading strikeout mark up to 1,136.
“Ten of them,” Hinch said of the strikeouts. “Felt like we swung the bats OK, didn’t really push anything across to threaten the game. “It wasn’t our night.”
Kazmir’s three earned runs allowed ended a franchise-record nine starts in which Astros pitchers had allowed two runs or fewer.
It’s just the second time in Kazmir’s 10 starts that he’s allowed three earned runs or more, marking the second time in the last three outings after he served up six runs in a loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 17.
“Just didn’t feel in synch. Felt like I didn’t have that feel in front,” Kazmir said.
Astros: C Jason Castro extended his hitting streak to five games with a fifth-inning double, but he left the game after straining his right quad after rounding first base. Hinch said Castro won’t play Saturday’s game at Target Field and will re-evaluate his injury then. “It’s difficult as a catcher, that hip and quad area, so we’ll be careful,” Hinch said. … OF George Springer, on the disabled list with a fractured right wrist since July 1, is scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Double-A Corpus Christi on Sunday. Hinch said the hope was Springer would be ready when he was eligible to be activated on Sept. 4.
Twins: Molitor said he hopes that Sano will be available to DH on Saturday.
Houston sends Mike Fiers (1-0, 2.42) to the mound for the first time since he threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers on Aug. 21. The Twins will pitch right-hander Mike Pelfrey (6-7, 3.69), who lasted just 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Baltimore his last time out.
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