Among the season-high seven home runs the Houston Astros slugged in their 10-1 road win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday was the first of the season from veteran first baseman Jose Abreu.
Much has been made of the sudden lack of power from Abreu, whose previous home run came last Sept. 13 against the Colorado Rockies while he was with the Chicago White Sox.
Of his 244 career homers, a career-low 15 came in 2022, with that power drought extending into this season, his first with the Astros, who have won 14 of 17 games entering the opener of a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins on Monday.
"Everybody was real happy," Astros manager Dusty Baker said of seeing Abreu break out. "It's been a long time for sure, so hopefully this is the start of something good."
Rookie right-hander J.P. France (1-1, 3.43 ERA) is the scheduled starter for the Astros on Monday. He took a loss against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday despite notching a career-high eight strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings while allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and one walk.
France will make his first career appearance against the Twins. He has held the opposition to one earned run or none in three of his four starts.
Right-hander Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.82 ERA) has the starting assignment for the Twins.
He leads the majors in ERA, adjusted ERA-plus (236) and fielding independent pitching (2.02), and has yet to surrender a home run over 54 1/3 innings this season. Gray has recorded four consecutive no-decisions while producing 25 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings with a 3.72 ERA during that span. Minnesota dropped all four of the games, including a 4-3 setback to the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday during which Gray allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts over five-plus innings.
Gray is 4-4 with a 2.90 ERA over 11 career starts against the Astros. On April 7, he allowed one run on four hits and one walk vs. Houston while recording a season-high 13 strikeouts over seven innings but did not factor into the decision during the Twins' 3-2, 10-inning home victory.
With a 3-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Twins completed a six-game homestand with a 2-4 record. By dropping the rubber match of that series, Minnesota endured its fourth consecutive series defeat.
The Twins remain in first place in the AL Central despite dropping eight of their past 12 games. They were a season-high six games over .500 in mid-April but have been unable to put together a stretch of quality baseball, with their loss on Sunday serving as a microcosm of their recent issues.
"The defensive play just wasn't good enough," Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. "We're just giving them outs on plays that are not difficult, not overly difficult plays. We also on the offensive end have the chance to really get something going and sometimes you shoot yourself in the foot over 162 games. We have to get over it.
"Before the next game, we do have some things that we certainly need to clean up."
--Field Level Media