Twins third baseman Marwin Gonzalez faced all the requisite questions in his return to Houston on Monday and, befitting his personality, answered most every query with a stoic, measured tone.
But when the Astros welcomed Gonzalez back home with a pregame tribute video covering the first seven seasons of his career, it was clear that Gonzalez was touched by the gesture. When the Twins and Astros resume their three-game series Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, it will be business as usual for both sides. But the opener featured an outpouring of respect and admiration from both sides, with Gonzalez pleased to see his former teammates once again.
"I love them. It feels good," Gonzalez said of the reunion. "We have been talking; we haven't lost that. We've been talking pretty much every day so it's nothing new. It's good to see their faces though. I'm glad that I got to see them and I'm going to be here three days."
Gonzalez slashed .264/.318/.419 with 76 home runs and 292 RBI over 795 games with the Astros and struck the decisive blow in Game 2 of the 2017 World Series with his game-tying, ninth-inning homer off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. But last offseason, the Astros failed to re-sign their free-agent super utility, and Gonzalez took a 2-year, $21 million deal with the Twins.
The reception Gonzalez received didn't change the demise of his relationship with the Astros. It did, however, bring to light his commitment to his new organization while harkening back to his old one.
"Yeah, I thought there was going to be a good chance that I was going to be back," Gonzalez told reporters. "That's no secret how I feel right now but it wasn't possible. I'm here, I'm grateful to be here, too. This is what I like to do, this is what I love. No matter where I play I'm going to give 100 percent for the city."
Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-1, 5.30 ERA) will start the middle game of this three-game set for the Twins. Pineda suffered the loss in his previous outing, allowing six runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings in a 7-4 setback to Toronto last Thursday. Before that, the Twins won each of his first three starts, with Pineda posting a 2-0 record and 3.00 ERA. In seven career starts against the Astros, Pineda is 3-3 with a 4.40 ERA but is 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA over three starts in Houston.
Left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 3.32 ERA) gets the start for the Astros. He took the loss against the Oakland Athletics last Wednesday despite giving up just two runs on four hits over six innings while issuing one walk and recording one strikeout. Miley has limited the opposition to three earned runs or fewer in each of his last 20 starts, the second-longest active streak in the majors. He is 1-0 with a 5.59 ERA over two career starts against the Twins.
The Astros faced another sizable early deficit in their 9-5 loss to the Twins on Monday, trailing by six runs entering the bottom half of the sixth inning. Houston trailed 6-0 at the start of the fourth inning last Saturday at Texas (a 9-4 loss) and 10-1 in the series finale against the Rangers on Sunday before losing 11-10. The Astros closed to within two runs Monday with a three-run seventh inning.
"I think if we get past the point of the first where we're not down, I think we have a good shot going into it," Astros right fielder Josh Reddick said. "This thing will pass."
--Field Level Media
Astros looking to start strong against Pineda, Twins