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Astros seek another strong start on mound vs. White Sox

Nearly three months into the season, the Houston Astros are in an unfamiliar spot.

Nine games behind the American League West-leading Seattle Mariners, Houston might be closer to finding its identity ahead of its series finale Thursday against the host Chicago White Sox. The Astros hope to stay in contention for their eighth straight playoff appearance.

Houston’s starting-pitching combination of Framber Valdez and Hunter Brown allowed just three runs through the first two games of the series. Brown went six innings on Wednesday, allowing one run on seven hits and no walks while striking out six.

It was the third consecutive game in which Houston gave up two runs or fewer since a 13-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

“He was really good, efficient,” Astros manager Joe Espada said of Brown. “He just keeps getting better and better each time he’s out there.”

Houston’s pitching staff owns a 4.13 ERA, which ranks 20th in the majors. The Astros’ starters have been even worse, as their composite 4.48 ERA rates 22nd.

On Thursday, rookie right-hander Spencer Arrighetti (3-6, 6.37 ERA) will try to extend the Astros’ recent good form on the mound.

Arrighetti, who is set to face Chicago for the first time in his career, allowed seven earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in his latest outing, on Saturday against the Tigers.

Houston received an unlikely offensive boost on Wednesday. After catcher Victor Caratini left in the third inning due to leg discomfort, Cesar Salazar drove in two runs on two hits in just his second game of the season.

“It’s just due to the preparation,” Salazar said. “Our coaches do a really good job of getting us prepared for the game. … I’m just glad I could help this team win and execute when I needed to.”

The White Sox will attempt to earn their first series win since taking two of three from the Washington Nationals in mid-May.

Chicago owns the worst record in the majors, but production from the team’s young core gives cause for optimism.

Although on pace for the worst season in franchise history, the White Sox have seen Garrett Crochet emerge as one of the league’s best young pitchers. The 24-year-old left-hander, who struck out eight on Wednesday, has 124 strikeouts and trails Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Tyler Glasnow by one for the major league lead.

The White Sox are also encouraged by the progress of catcher Korey Lee, 25.

“It’s coming along,” said Lee, who is batting .246 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 57 games after collecting two hits on Wednesday. “Every day I learn something, whether it’s pitch sequencing or communicating with the pitcher. Just the confidence in the game-calling, knowing our pitchers and what we have to do every single day.”

Chris Flexen (2-6, 5.35 ERA) gets the start for Chicago on Thursday. The 29-year-old right-hander is coming off a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix on Friday, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on nine hits.

Flexen is 1-6 with a 4.71 ERA in nine career starts against Houston.

–Field Level Media

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