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Improving Astros open pre-break homestand vs. Marlins

Even with Josh Hader ending a 10-game road trip on a down note, the Houston Astros can still feel good about their recent performance.

After making up eight games in the American League West over the past three weeks and moving above .500 for the first time all season during the trip, Houston will attempt to continue its strong finish ahead of the All-Star break on Tuesday night when it hosts the Miami Marlins.

The Astros are returning to Houston to face the Marlins and Texas Rangers and will play 15 of their next 21 games at home. The Astros went 6-4 on their trip against the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays and Minnesota Twins.

Houston ended the trip with consecutive losses at Minnesota, following up a 9-3 defeat with Sunday’s 3-2 loss in which Hader allowed a walk-off homer to Christian Vazquez.

Hader has notched six of his 15 saves during the Astros’ 13-4 surge that has seen them go from being 10 games out to two out in the division, but he has also given up four homers in his past six outings.

“I can’t speak highly enough of our bullpen,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “They have kept us in games, and if it wasn’t for that group of guys, we would not have been able to turn our season around. I trust those guys and things happen.”

The Astros are also playing slightly banged-up.

Jose Altuve returned to the lineup on Sunday after sitting out Saturday with a left hand contusion. He batted .371 (13-for-35) on the trip. Yordan Alvarez sat out Sunday with a sore right knee after getting hit by a pitch on Saturday and is day-to-day.

“I’ll take (6-4) every time,” Espada said. “(That) is a pretty good road trip and the boys are grinding. They’re playing really hard.”

The Marlins are attempting to win three straight for the fourth time this season after taking the final two games of a three-game series against the visiting Chicago White Sox over the weekend.

On Sunday, Jake Burger hit a game-ending three-run homer in a four-run ninth in which the Marlins were previously down to their last strike. Josh Bell hit a game-tying RBI double that stopped an 0-for-21 skid.

“It felt great,” Bell said. “That’s why you play the game. I was in a bit of a rut there, but to feel that ball connect with my bat, it felt great.”

After Houston pitched to a 4.81 ERA during its road trip, Ronel Blanco (8-3, 2.53 ERA) is expected to open the homestand. Blanco went 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA in two starts against the Mets and Blue Jays during the trip and has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his past six outings.

Blanco is facing Miami for the first time and is 2-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 11 career interleague appearances (seven starts).

Miami’s Trevor Rogers (1-9, 4.91) will attempt to avoid joining Colorado’s Dakota Hudson as the second pitcher in the majors to reach double-digit losses.

Since his only win on May 15 at Detroit, Rogers is 0-3 with a 4.04 ERA in his past eight starts. Rogers turned in his second-shortest outing this season last Wednesday when he allowed two runs on five hits in three innings against Boston.

Rogers is opposing the Astros for the first time and is 2-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 16 career interleague starts.

–Field Level Media

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