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Astros host Marlins, continue to seek strong finish to first half

Houston Astros manager Joe Espada continued to stump for starter Ronel Blanco as an American League All-Star even after the right-hander was not selected for the team over the weekend.

Almost on cue, Blanco produced the kind of start the Astros were seeking as they opened their final homestand before the All-Star break with a 4-3 victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday.

Houston will face the Marlins twice more before hosting the Texas Rangers this weekend, seeking to maintain the momentum that has significantly narrowed the gap behind the AL West-leading Seattle Mariners.

The Astros improved to 22-11 since June 1 behind Blanco, who allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over seven innings for his 10th quality start this season.

The Astros were 10 games behind the Mariners as recently as June 18 but entered their three-game set with Miami facing a two-game deficit. Having climbed so high in the standings so fast, the last thing the Astros wanted was to surrender their gains before the break.

Blanco did his part Tuesday.

“We’re going to prepare ourselves to have another good homestand,” Espada said. “We’re playing really well at home, and we really want to carry this momentum going into the second half of the season.”

Left-hander Framber Valdez (7-5, 3.84 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Wednesday. He allowed three runs — all in the first inning — on nine hits and two walks over six innings in a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.

Valdez has worked at least seven innings in five of his past 11 starts, with the Astros going 5-0 in those outings. He is 4-2 since June 1.

Valdez is 0-2 with a 3.29 ERA in two career starts against the Marlins. In his most recent appearance against them, he allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings in a 5-1 road loss on Aug. 14, 2023.

Right-hander Bryan Hoeing (0-1, 1.99 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Marlins on Wednesday. It will mark his second start following reinstatement from the 15-day injured list on July 5. Hoeing threw three innings against the Chicago White Sox on that date, allowing one run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts while taking the 3-2 loss.

Hoeing missed 55 games with a left hamstring strain before his reinstatement. He did not record a decision over 12 relief appearances and posted a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings before his extended IL stint.

Hoeing will make his first career start and second appearance against the Astros. He allowed one hit and struck out two while working two scoreless innings of relief against Houston on Aug. 16, 2023. He did not factor into the decision of a 12-5 home loss.

After going 4-for-24 with five strikeouts on the Marlins’ recent homestand, Miami center fielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. showed signs of a breakout by going 2-for-4 with a solo homer, two runs and his 18th stolen base of the season in the eighth inning of the series opener.

“He’s the one guy in the lineup that can change the game in multiple ways,” Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said. “Jazz is a dynamic player.”

–Field Level Media

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